| Arguments For
| Arguments Against
A constitutional amendment that would give the state Commission on Judicial Performance
authority to discipline subordinate judicial officers.
As criminal and civil cases have become more
complex and numerous, court districts have increasingly come to rely on court commissioners
and referees - generally referred to as subordinate judicial officers - to handle
certain matters that come before the local courts. Typically, these subordinate officers
handle cases where the law is settled and everything is pretty cut-and-dried. Traffic
citations, relatively settled family and juvenile matters, and small claims cases.
In some cases, they serve as temporary judges and hear more complex cases when the
parties agree. There are about 370 commissioners and referees throughout the state.
Their lack of an official judge's title has precluded these officers from being monitored
by the agency which oversees the performance of judges - the state Commission on
Judicial Performance. Discipline of these court officers has fallen to the judges
and the judicial district for whom they serve.
Proposition 221 would give the Commission
on Judicial Performance authority to oversee and discipline court commissioners or
referees at its discretion, just as it currently does for judges. The measure provides
that a person who is found unfit to be a commissioner or referee by the Commission
on Judicial Performance may not serve as a commissioner or referee. The legislative
analyst estimates that to the extent that the Commission on Judicial Performance
chooses to provide oversight and exercise discipline over court commissioners and
referees, the state would incur minor additional costs.
Proponents include the author, state Senator
Tim Leslie (R-Roseville), the Family Guardian Network, the Judicial Council, and
Los Angeles County Superior Court Juvenile Division. They contend Proposition 221
is improves the accountability and fairness of the state's judiciary. Court commissioners,
they contend, have the capacity to arbitrarily deny a parent the right to visit with
his or her own child. The measure, they contend, allows for the discipline of commissioners
who make poor legal decisions by granting the Commission on Judicial Performance
the authority to review complaints that appointed commissioners are biased, unqualified,
prejudiced or incapable of rendering good legal decisions because of conflicts of
No official arguments against were submitted,
however the California Court Commissioners Association has, in the past, argued that
such legislation is unnecessary. Since subordinate officers are hired by the judges
themselves, the association has argued that it makes sense that the presiding judges
handle their oversight, rather than the statewide body.
-- Article by Tippy Young