Chief justice lobbies California lawmakers on court spending bill
The chief justice of the California Supreme Court was at the Capitol on Thursday lobbying against a bill that would take away some of her power over court spending, and the leader of the Senate later announced his opposition to the legislation.
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye met with Senate Republicans regarding AB 1208, which would shift key budget decisions away from the state Judicial Council she heads and give them to local trial courts.
"It threatens the impartiality of the judicial branch because it removes and eliminates oversight and authority of the Judicial Council on statewide policy,'' she said in an interview about her message to lawmakers.
Senate Republican leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar said after the meeting that it went well but he doesn’t have a position yet on the bill. "We were just listening," Huff said. "That was one of the things we were talking about."
But later, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) voiced opposition to the legislation and said he has "no present plans" to refer it to a policy committee for a hearing.
"I don’t think 1208 is the vehicle to have constructive discussion about the future of courts," Steinberg told reporters in his office. "I believe in a statewide administration of justice. I think 1208 goes too far in dismantling that."
Cantil-Sakauye said she appreciated Steinberg for recognizing there are "bigger issues'' to deal with, including the state's budget problems.
The measure by Assemblyman Charles Calderon (D-Whittier) recently was approved by the state Assembly and is supported by a group called the Alliance of California Judges, which has complained that money is being misspent by the statewide court bureaucracy.
Calderon apparently realizes his bill is in trouble. He has sent a letter to Cantil-Sakauye and Steinberg asking for a meeting to discuss the matter.
-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento
Photo: California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. Credit: Jeff Chiu / Associated Press