Calif. AG mulling judicial discipline issue

Jessica M. Karmasek Sep. 27, 2011, 2:13pm


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline) - California Attorney General Kamala Harris is reportedly considering whether the state's Commission on Judicial Performance can discipline superior court judges for giving themselves more benefits.

According to a May 23 letter from the commission to Harris, it wants to know if the state Legislature has the authority to enact legislation -- in particular, Senate Bill X2 11 -- that would preclude it from disciplining judges for authorizing supplemental compensation to be paid to themselves from public funds.

The commission contends that the Legislature does not have the authority, and that a section of SBX2 11 is "invalid" and "unconstitutional" as a violation of separation of powers.

The commission argues that it and the California Supreme Court have "exclusive authority" over judicial discipline.

According to the Cal Coast News, the commission's letter stems from findings that San Luis Obispo County judges have been voting themselves perks worth more than $200,000 a year.

The newspaper points to the 1998 Trial Court Funding Act, which moved control of court spending to judges in an effort to make the system more efficient.

However, the move also made it easier for San Luis Obispo judges to begin voting themselves perks.

The newspaper reported that the judges are paid a salary of nearly $179,000 a year but also split an extra $235,000 a year in additional benefits.

The state's court system is already facing a $350 billion budget reduction.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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