BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    






                             SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE
                         Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, Chair
                              2013-2014 Regular Session


          AB 2745 (Committee on Judiciary)
          As Introduced
          Hearing Date: June 17, 2014
          Fiscal: Yes
          Urgency: No
          NR


                                        SUBJECT
                                           
                                       Courts

                                      DESCRIPTION  

          This bill would authorize the Judicial Council to convert 10  
          subordinate judicial officer positions to judgeships in the  
          2014-2015 year, if the conversion would result in a judge being  
          assigned to a family law or juvenile law assignment, as  
          specified.

          This bill would also authorize the Judicial Council to increase  
          the procedures for family centered case resolution.

                                      BACKGROUND  

          In a 2010 report, the Judicial Council analyzed the need for  
          more judges in California's courts.  The Council compared the  
          amount of judges necessary for court operation with the amount  
          of judicial positions authorized and funded, and determined that  
          there was a shortfall of 14 percent. Existing law permits  
          litigants to stipulate to the use of an attorney, appointed by  
          the trial court, to serve as a temporary judge to preside over  
          their matter.  These temporary judges are known as subordinate  
          judicial officers (SJOs).  According to the Judicial Council,  
          the current shortfall in available judges has led to SJOs  
          spending an average of 55 percent of their time working as  
          temporary judges, and in large courts, that number approaches 75  
          to 80 percent.  This bill, which, in part, is nearly identical  
          to SB 405 (Corbett, Ch. 705, Stats. 2011) and last year's AB  
          1403 (Committee on Judiciary, Ch. 510, Stats. 2013) seeks to  
          ensure that a greater number of family and juvenile law cases  
                                                                (more)



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          are presided over by judges, rather than SJOs.  Accordingly,  
          this bill would ratify the Judicial Council's authority to  
          convert 10 subordinate judicial officers (SJO) to judgeships in  
          the next year, provided those judges replace SJOs in family or  
          juvenile law cases.  This bill would also allow the Judicial  
          Council to increase the procedures for family centered case  
          resolution set forth in statute.

                                CHANGES TO EXISTING LAW
           
           Existing law  provides that the Legislature shall prescribe the  
          number of judges and provide for the officers and employees of  
          each superior court.  Existing law also states that the  
          Legislature may provide for the trial courts to appoint officers  
          such as commissioners to perform subordinate judicial duties.    
          (Cal. Const., art. VI, Secs. 4, 22.)
           
          Existing law  authorizes the courts to appoint subordinate  
          judicial officers, and sets forth their duties and titles.   
          (Gov. Code Sec. 71622.)

           Existing law  authorizes the conversion of 16 subordinate  
          judicial officer positions in eligible superior courts to  
          judgeships each fiscal year as specified.  Existing law further  
          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 a judge being assigned to a family or  
          juvenile law assignment previously presided over by an SJO, but  
          requires that such authority be ratified by the Legislature by  
          statutory enactment.  (Gov. Code Secs. 69615-16.)
          
           This bill  would ratify the authority of the Judicial Council to  
          convert 10 subordinate judicial officer positions (SJOs) to  
          judgeships in 2014-2015, 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, and would provide that this  
          authority is in addition to the existing authority provided to  
          convert 16 SJOs to judges.

                                        COMMENT
          
           1.Stated need for the bill
           
          According to the author: 
                                                                      



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            The Judicial Council has identified family and juvenile law  
            cases as among those most important for judges, rather than  
            SJOs, to preside over.  Unlike judges, SJOs are not directly  
            accountable to the public.  Unfortunately, due to the  
            shortages of judges, SJOs today are performing some of the  
            most complex and sensitive judicial duties, including  
            presiding over family and juvenile law matters.  Conversion of  
            these positions to judgeships when they become vacant makes  
            them both more accountable to the public and helps provide  
            better trust and confidence in the courts.

           2.Conversions of available subordinate judicial officer  
            positions to judgeships in family and juvenile court    
           
          Under current law, the Legislature is responsible for  
          prescribing the number of judges and providing for the officers  
          and employees of each superior court.  (Cal. Const., art. VI,  
          Sec. 4.)  Existing law further permits the Legislature to  
          provide for, and the courts to appoint, subordinate judicial  
          officers (SJOs) to assist the courts in carrying out their  
          duties.  (Id. at Sec. 22; Gov. Code Sec. 71622.) 

          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.  However, responding to the shortage of  
          judges available to handle the trial courts' workload, the  
          Legislature has considered numerous bills over the last several  
          years that established new judgeships and authorized the  
          conversion of up to 162 existing SJOs (16 per fiscal year) to  
          judgeships upon vacancy. Unlike judges, SJOs are not directly  
          accountable to the public, but due to the shortages of judges,  
          they are performing some of the most complex and sensitive  
          judicial duties. 

          Recognizing the particular need for judges in family and  
          juvenile law cases, AB 2763 (Committee on Judiciary, Ch. 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 2011-2012 through SB 405 (Corbett, Ch. 705, Stats. 2011) and  
          last year through AB 1403 (Ch. 510, Stats. 2013).  This bill  
                                                                      



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          seeks to provide the Judicial Council with that same  
          ratification for 2014-2015.

           3.Family-centered case resolution  

          With the exception of family law, all general civil and criminal  
          cases have procedures in place that allow the court to control  
          the process and pacing of the case in order to ensure a fair,  
          timely, and just resolution.  However, family courts have  
          historically not been granted the normal authority of other  
          civil courts to control their case scheduling without both  
          parties' consent.  As a result, one party can potentially drag  
          out a case for a very long time in the hopes of forcing the  
          other party to agree to an unfavorable settlement. In order to  
          modernize and align family court practices with those of other  
          courts, AB 939 (Committee on Judiciary, Ch. 352, Stats. 2010)  
          authorized courts to order a family-centered case resolution  
          plan even in the absence of a stipulation by the parties.  

          Family law case management has now been implemented across the  
          state and is helping the courts serve families.  This bill would  
          not change any requirement concerning case management, but would  
          allow the Judicial Council, by rule of court, to increase  
          requirements of case management.  


           Support  :  Judicial Council of California

           Opposition  :  None Known

                                           
                                       HISTORY
           
           Source  :  Author

           Related Pending Legislation  : None Known

           Prior Legislation  :

          SB 1190 (Jackson) would have authorized an additional 50 judges,  
          funded a prior set of 50 judges, and increased the number of  
          justices from seven to nine in the Fourth Appellate District  
          Court of Appeal.  This bill was held under submission in the  
          Senate Appropriations Committee.

          AB 1403 (Committee on Judiciary, Chapter 510, Statutes of 2013)  
                                                                      



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          See Comment 2.

          SB 405 (Corbett, Chapter 705, Statutes of 2011) See Comment 2.

          AB 2763 (Committee on Judiciary, Chapter 690, Statutes of 2010)  
          See Comment 2.

          AB 939 (Committee on Judiciary, Chapter 352, Statutes of 2010)  
          See Comment 3. 

          AB 159 (Jones, Chapter 722, Statutes of 2007) permitted upon  
          legislative authorization, the conversion of up to 162 existing  
          subordinate SJO positions to judgeships in eligible superior  
          courts upon a vacancy of an SJO position, provided that no more  
          than 16 subordinate judicial officer positions may be converted  
          in any calendar year.

           Prior Vote  :

          Assembly Floor (Ayes 76, Noes 0)
          Assembly Appropriations Committee (Ayes 17, Noes 0)
          Assembly Judiciary Committee (Ayes 10, Noes 0)

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