Sunday, November 20, 2005

J.A.I.L. for Judges - the Judicial Accountability Initiative Law

While in Sacramento for a presentation that I made at a Lorman Continuing Education Seminar on Internet Research and General Usage for Legal Professionals in California, I stumbled upon an article that appeared in the Thursday November 17, 2005 edition of The Sacramento Bee. The article was entitled Bid to punish judges has eye on state, and it narrated the efforts of two men from Southern California who are championing the need to hold judges accountable for "bad decisions." Specifically, the two men have worked to qualify an initiative for the ballot in South Dakota that would create a special grand jury to offer ordinary citizens redress for grievances that they might have against judges. Eventually, the men hope to pass a similar initiative in California.

Ron Branson is the author of the South Dakota initiative, and the founder of the J.A.I.L. organization. ("Judicial Accountability Initiative Law.") Mr. Branson has been helped in his efforts by Attorney Gary Zerman, the co-founder of J.A.I.L. Together, they hope to use the initiative process to "wake up the sleeping giant of resentment against judges." Apparently, they have also awakened the sleeping giant of the judicial system itself. Specifically, California Chief Justice Ronald George and Missouri Chief Justice Michael Wolff have expressed concern about the South Dakota campaign and the larger J.A.I.L. movement.

According to the aforementioned Bee article, California Chief Justice Ronald George has described J.A.I.L as "a threat to judicial independence." The article goes on to state that, according to Chief Justice George, California has an "outstanding and impartial" judiciary and doesn't need "extremists telling us how to change a system that served us so well and substitute . . . a highly politicized system for the impartial process that we enjoy." The article also states that Missouri Chief Justice Michael Wolff commented on the South Dakota campaign, noting "there is an organization contemplating a similar effort right here."

I have no personal experience or knowledge of South Dakota's judiciary or the judiciary of Missouri, and while I still hold the federal judiciary as a whole in great regard (along with particular members of the California judiciary), J.A.I.L. appears to be exactly the sort of medicine that most of the members of California's judiciary system need. Contrary to the assertions of Chief Justice George, the vast majority of Californians who place their faith in the rule of law are routinely denied anything remotely resembling justice in California state courts, as evidenced by the fact that no less than 90 percent of the opinions written by the California Courts of Appeal are unpublished.

In March of 1998, Chief Justice George told the San Francisco Daily Journal that "unpublished opinions are a necessary evil to chill development of the law [in California]." What this comment tells me is that the California judiciary has been out of control for quite some time, and that unpublished opinions -- or, what's worse, "depublished" opinions" -- are the only way that the powers that be in the California judiciary can maintain the illusion that the rule of law obtains in California courts. Indeed, as I alluded to in a previous blog entry, California trial court judges are pretty much entitled to rule as they please, the rule of law be damned.


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