BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  AB 2745
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          ASSEMBLY THIRD READING
          AB 2745 (Judiciary Committee)
          As Introduced March 4, 2014
          Majority vote 

           JUDICIARY           10-0        APPROPRIATIONS      17-0        
           
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 
          |Ayes:|Wieckowski, Wagner,       |Ayes:|Gatto, Bigelow,           |
          |     |Alejo, Chau, Dickinson,   |     |Bocanegra, Bradford, Ian  |
          |     |Garcia, Gorell,           |     |Calderon, Campos,         |
          |     |Maienschein, Muratsuchi,  |     |Donnelly, Eggman, Gomez,  |
          |     |Stone                     |     |Holden, Jones, Linder,    |
          |     |                          |     |Pan, Quirk,               |
          |     |                          |     |Ridley-Thomas, Wagner,    |
          |     |                          |     |Weber                     |
          |-----+--------------------------+-----+--------------------------|
          |     |                          |     |                          |
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 
           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 (SJO) 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  :

          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.   

          2)Authorizes the courts to appoint subordinate judicial  
            officers, and sets forth their duties and titles.  








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          3)Authorizes the conversion of 16 SJO 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.  

          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.  

           FISCAL EFFECT  :  According to the Assembly Appropriations  
          Committee, annual cost of up to $270,000 for conversion of up to  
          10 SJOs to judgeships.  For each conversion of an SJO position  
          to a judgeship, the additional annual cost, based on salary  
          differences between the two positions, is approximately $27,000.  
           The Judicial Council indicates that these additional costs will  
          be funded through a reallocation of monies in the Trial Court  
          Trust Fund.

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

          This bill seeks to improve family and juvenile law cases by  








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          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.

          AB 159 (Jones), Chapter 722, Statutes of 2007, 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 positions must be converted to judgeships in  
               order to ensure that critical case types, including  
               family, probate, and juvenile law matters, can be  








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               heard by judges. 

          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 Committee), Chapter 690,  
          Statutes of 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 Committee), Chapter 510, Statutes  
          of 2013) and 2011-12 (SB 405 (Corbett), Chapter 705, Statutes of  
          2011).  This bill seeks to provide the Judicial Council with  
          that same ratification for 2014-15.

          Family centered case resolution was a key provision in the  
          Judiciary Committee's recent family law reform legislation -- AB  
          939 (Judiciary Committee), Chapter 352, Statutes of 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 unfavorable settlement.  









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          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.  

          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."  

           
          Analysis Prepared by  :  Leora Gershenzon / JUD. / (916) 319-2334 

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