BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  AB 2745
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          Date of Hearing:  April 8, 2014

                           ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY
                                Bob Wieckowski, Chair
                  AB 2745 (Judiciary) - As Introduced: March 4, 2014

           SUBJECT :  FAMILY LAW

           KEY ISSUE  :  TO IMPROVE THE HANDLING OF FAMILY AND JUVENILE LAW  
          CASES, SHOULD THE LEGISLATURE RATIFY THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL'S  
          CONVERSION OF 10 SUBORDINATE JUDICIAL OFFICER POSITIONS TO  
          JUDGES FOR FAMILY AND JUVENILE PROCEEDINGS?

                                      SYNOPSIS
          
          This Committee bill makes two non-controversial changes to  
          family law.  First, as required by statute, the bill ratifies  
          the Judicial Council's authority to convert 10 subordinate  
          judicial officers (SJOs) to judgeships in the next year,  
          provided those judges replace SJOs in family or juvenile law  
          cases.  This provision seeks to improve family and juvenile law  
          cases by increasing the likelihood that these important matters  
          are presided over by judges and not subordinate judicial  
          officers.  Second, this bill makes a technical cleanup to family  
          centered case resolution procedures to ensure that the statute  
          codified by the Legislature on 2010 cannot be reduced by rule of  
          court, as is the case with all laws.  This bill is supported by  
          the Judicial Council.  There is no known opposition.

           SUMMARY  :  Seeks to improve the handling of family and juvenile  
          law cases in our courts.  Specifically,  this bill  :  

          1)Ratifies the authority of the Judicial Council to convert 10  
            subordinate judicial officer positions to judgeships in  
            2014-15, provided the conversion of these positions will  
            result in judges being assigned to family or juvenile law  
            assignments previously presided over by a subordinate judicial  
            officer.  Provides that this authority is in addition to the  
            existing authority provided to convert 16 SJOs to judges.

          2)Allows the Judicial Council, by rule of court, to increase the  
            procedures for family centered case resolution set forth in  
            statute, but not reduce them.

           EXISTING LAW  :








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          1)Provides that the Legislature shall prescribe the number of  
            judges and provide for the officers and employees of each  
            superior court.  Provides that the Legislature may provide for  
            the trial courts to appoint officers such as commissioners to  
            perform subordinate judicial duties.   (California  
            Constitution, Article VI, Sections 4, 22.)

          2)Authorizes the courts to appoint subordinate judicial  
            officers, and sets forth their duties and titles.  (Government  
            Code Section 71622.)

          3)Authorizes the conversion of 16 subordinate judicial officer  
            positions in eligible superior courts to judgeships each  
            fiscal year as specified.  Authorizes the Judicial Council to  
            convert up to an additional 10 SJOs to judgeships each year,  
            upon vacancy and subsequent legislative authorization, if the  
            conversion of these additional positions will result in judges  
            being assigned to family or juvenile law assignments  
            previously presided over by subordinate judicial officers, but  
            requires that such authority be ratified by the Legislature by  
            statutory enactment.  (Government Code Sections 69615-16.)

          4)Allows a court in a dissolution proceeding to order a family  
            centered case resolution plan, even in the absence of a  
            stipulation by the parties.  Clarifies that family centered  
            case resolution does not provide the court with any additional  
            authority to appoint an expert, beyond that permitted under  
            other provisions of law.  Directs Judicial Council, by January  
            1, 2012, to adopt a rule of court to implement family centered  
            case resolution.  But also allows Judicial Council, by rule,  
            to modify the case resolution procedures.  (Family Code  
            Section 2450 et seq.)

           FISCAL EFFECT  :  As currently in print this bill is keyed fiscal.

           COMMENTS  :  This Committee bill makes two non-controversial  
          changes to family law.  First, as required by statute, the bill  
          ratifies the Judicial Council's authority to convert 10  
          subordinate judicial officers (SJOs) to judgeships in the next  
          year, provided those judges replace SJOs in family or juvenile  
          law cases.  This provision seeks to improve family and juvenile  
          law cases by increasing the likelihood that these matters are  
          presided over by judges and not subordinate judicial officers.   
          Second, it makes a technical change to family centered case  








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          resolution law to ensure that the existing law, passed by the  
          Legislature in 2010, is followed.

           Subordinate Judicial Officer Conversions  :  This bill seeks to  
          improve family and juvenile law cases by ratifying the Judicial  
          Council's authority to convert 10 SJOs to judgeships in 2014-15,  
          provided the conversion of these positions will result in a  
          judge being assigned to a family or juvenile law assignment  
          previously presided over by a subordinate judicial officer.   
          This will increase the likelihood that these matters will be  
          presided over by judges and not subordinate judicial officers.    
           

          According to the Judicial Council, historically SJO positions  
          were created and funded at the county level to address courts'  
          needs for judicial-like resources when new judgeships were  
          pending or not yet authorized by the Legislature.  Unlike  
          judges, SJOs are not directly accountable to the public, but due  
          to the shortages of judges, are performing some of the most  
          complex and sensitive judicial duties.  Conversion of these  
          positions to judgeships when they become vacant makes them more  
          accountable to the public and, the Judicial Council contends,  
          helps provide better trust and confidence in the courts.

          In 2007, AB 159 (Jones), Chap. 722, was enacted to address a  
          severe shortage in the number of trial court judgeships.  At  
          that time, the Judicial Council noted potentially serious  
          consequences flowing from this deficiency in judicial resources,  
          including a significant decrease in Californians' access to the  
          courts, compromised public safety, an unstable business climate,  
          and enormous backlogs in some courts that inhibit fair, timely  
          and equitable justice.  That bill, in addition to authorizing 50  
          additional judges, authorized the conversion of 162 SJOs, upon  
          vacancy, to judgeships to utilize the judicial resources more  
          efficiently and properly limit SJOs to subordinate judicial  
          duties.  The stated findings and declarations supporting the  
          legislation included the following:
           
               It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this  
               section to restore an appropriate balance between  
               subordinate judicial officers and judges in the trial  
               courts by providing for the conversion, as needed, of  
               subordinate judicial officer positions to judgeships in  
               courts that assign subordinate judicial officers to act as  
               temporary judges.  The Legislature finds that these  








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               positions must be converted to judgeships in order to  
               ensure that critical case types, including family, probate,  
               and juvenile law matters, can be heard by judges.  
               (Government Code Section 69615.)

          In 2002 the Judicial Council identified family and juvenile law  
          matters among those that are of such a nature as to require  
          judges, rather than SJOs, to preside over them whenever  
          possible.  This Council policy has been echoed repeatedly.   
          Among its many recommendations, the Blue Ribbon Commission on  
          Children in Foster Care recommended that "[c]onsistent with  
          Judicial Council policy, judges-not subordinate judicial  
          officers-hear dependency and delinquency cases.  Pending a full  
          transition from subordinate judicial officers to judges (through  
          reassignment or conversion of subordinate judicial officer  
          positions to judgeships), presiding judges should continue the  
          assignment of well-qualified and experienced subordinate  
          judicial officers to juvenile court."  

          Recognizing the particular need for judges in family and  
          juvenile law cases, AB 2763 (Judiciary), Chap. 690, Stats. 2010,  
          authorized the Judicial Council to convert up to an additional  
          10 SJOs to judgeships each year, if the conversion of these  
          additional positions will result in a judge being assigned to a  
          family or juvenile law assignment previously presided over by an  
          SJO.  However, such authorization must be ratified by the  
          Legislature.  This was done by the Legislature in 2013-14 (AB  
          1403 (Judiciary), Chap. 510, Stats. 2013) and 2011-12 (SB 405  
          (Corbett), Chap. 705, Stats. 2011).  This bill seeks to provide  
          the Judicial Council with that same ratification for 2014-15.

           Case Resolution Technical Clean-Up  :  Family centered case  
          resolution was a key provision in the Committee's recent family  
          law reform legislation -- AB 939 (Chap. 352, Stats. 2010).   
          Prior to that bill, with the exception of family law, all  
          general civil and criminal cases had procedures in place that  
          allowed the court to control the process and pacing of the case  
          in order to ensure a fair, timely, and just resolution.   
          However, family courts historically had not been granted the  
          normal authority of other civil courts to control their case  
          scheduling without both parties' consent, apparently based on an  
          antiquated notion that appropriately managing family law cases  
          could potentially prevent parties from reconciling.  As a  
          result, one party could potentially drag out a case for a very  
          long time in the hopes of forcing the other party to agree to an  








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          unfavorable settlement.  

          In order to modernize and align family court practices with  
          those of other courts, AB 939 allowed judges, with input of the  
          litigants and their attorneys, to have the ability to control  
          the manner and pace of the litigation by a method appropriate to  
          each case, which could include matters such as establishing  
          discovery schedules and cut-off dates, and setting dates for  
          exchange of expert witness information, even in the absence of a  
          stipulation by the parties.  

          Case management has now been implemented across the state and is  
          helping the courts, particularly in these difficult budget  
          times, better serve families.  This bill does not change any  
          requirement concerning case management, but simply clarifies  
          that the Judicial Council may not reduce the statutory  
          requirements, absent legislative action, but may, should it deem  
          it appropriate to do so, increase requirements of case  
          management.  This change is simply a technical cleanup to a  
          provision that pre-dated AB 939.  

          In support, the Judicial Council states that the bill "makes  
          clear the legislative intent of setting a floor for case  
          management in dissolution and nullity matters.  The bill  
          appropriately recognizes the Judicial Council's knowledge of and  
          experience with these cases, and the levels of management they  
          require, while setting a baseline that current rules of court  
          already exceed."  

           Pending Related Legislation  :  SB 1190 (Jackson) authorizes two  
          additional appellate court judges and 50 additional trial court  
          judges.  That bill is awaiting hearing in the Senate Judiciary  
          Committee.

           REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION  :   

           Support 
           
          Judicial Council

           Opposition 
           
          None on file
           
          Analysis Prepared by  :  Leora Gershenzon / JUD. / (916) 319-2334 








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