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JUDGES ASSOCIATION SURPRISED BY NEW DUES RULE The California Judges Association has received an “avalanche” of e-mails since the Judicial Council voted last week to require anyone making more than $100,000 to pay his or her own professional membership dues, said the association’s interim director, Michael Belote. But don’t write the judges off as just a bunch of cheapskates. Although the judicial branch budget has covered their dues since 1998 — and before that many counties paid — Belote said the judges aren’t so mad about the change as they are about the way it was handled. Belote said most judges heard about the idea only three days before the council’s Aug. 29 meeting. “While we understand the issues facing the Judicial Council, we would have preferred some notice so we could talk about it and examine some alternatives before the council voted,” Belote said. Although membership in CJA isn’t mandatory, Belote expects most judges to keep paying the $230 to $350 in annual dues, even though it will now come out of their own pockets. In response to the complaints, Fourth District Court of Appeal Justice Richard Huffman, chairman of the Judicial Council’s executive committee, said there was plenty of notice. The council has been floating the idea for some time, and it was vetted by the council’s budget committee. A council member even gave a heads-up to CJA President Gregory O’Brien that the issue was coming up, Huffman said. O’Brien, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge, could not be reach for comment last week. Even with all the e-mails, Belote said he’s not dwelling on it. He’s already trying to fry bigger fish, such as the gaping holes left in the judiciary’s budget by the passage of the state budget compromise. – Jeff Chorney IT’S A HAT TRICK FOR DEPUTY AG David Eldridge got to speak his piece before the California Supreme Court on Wednesday in San Francisco, and in so doing may have made history. The 33-year-old, Sacramento-based deputy attorney general argued in not just one case that day, but in three — one before lunch and two afterward. “Nobody around here remembers that happening in recent times,” the court’s administrator and clerk, Frederick “Fritz” Ohlrich, said Thursday. “So it’s pretty unusual.” Eldridge presented the state’s position in one case questioning whether city employees claiming discrimination must exhaust administrative remedies under the city charter and the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act before filing suit. Then, that afternoon, he handled companion cases involving the proper time to challenge HIV tests ordered at trial in sexual assault cases. Eldridge came across as calm in all three, attributing it afterward to in-office moot courts prior to Wednesday’s arguments. In addition, he said, “The court was good enough to separate [the cases] by a lunch break, and that really helped.” Eldridge said he learned that all three were coming up in one day only three or four weeks in advance. And he said he didn’t sweat it too badly when the time came to argue. “It was exciting,” he said. “But I don’t want to do it [again] next week.” Ohlrich said he’s sure Chief Justice Ronald George gave Eldridge’s predicament some advance thought. “He’s real careful about that kind of stuff,” he said. “He recognizes oral argument is difficult, and he wants everyone to be as good as they can be.” Even so, only Justice Joyce Kennard publicly noted the unusual triple play, welcoming him back for the second argument and saying she supposed he’d be around for a third. This wasn’t Eldridge’s first appearance before the Supreme Court. He argued a death penalty case in November 2001 and got an affirmance. – Mike McKee HARBIN-FORTE LEAVING JUVY COURT Four years was enough. Alameda County’s Juvenile Court presiding judge, Brenda Harbin-Forte, says she plans to pass the torch to Judge Carl Morris next year. “It has been a great time for me,” Harbin-Forte said last week. “I am certainly proud of everything that we have accomplished.” Under Harbin-Forte’s watch, the juvenile court started an adoption day for children in the dependency system, added a new full-time juvenile courtroom, created a juvenile court administrator post, added a full-time research attorney and began to address the needs of sexually abused children. Last year the Juvenile Court Judges of California named Harbin-Forte “Juvenile Court Judge of the Year.” She also was a staunch supporter of Sylvia Johnson, the county’s controversial former probation chief, and clashed with the county over its plan to give the sheriff temporary control over the probation department. Now the gavel will pass to Morris, a former juvenile court referee who handled juvenile cases as a deputy public defender. Harbin-Forte, who appeared before Morris when she was an attorney, called him an “excellent choice.” “It’s time for me to go back,” said Morris, adding that he wants to start a literacy program for children who are in custody. “There are some things that I always wanted to try, and to accomplish.” — Jahna Berry COURT DECIDES TO KEEP OFF THE GRASS Judges of America, those skeletons are staying in the closet — even if one of them is holding a bong. When the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decided last week to overturn the death sentences of more that 100 prisoners throughout the West, the ruling had a side effect — it vacated an evidentiary hearing into whether former Arizona Judge Philip Marquardt was smoking marijuana when he sentenced Warren Summerlin to die. Summerlin v. Stewart, 03 C.D.O.S. 8013, applied the U.S. Supreme Court decision Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584, retroactively. But the case was previously known for its more prurient details — a tryst between the defense attorney and the prosecutor, and Marquardt’s admitted pot habit. In an earlier ruling, the Ninth Circuit had wanted to know whether Marquardt’s drug use contributed to Summerlin’s sentence. Dissenting Judge Alex Kozinski had argued that the case set an unwarranted precedent. “The incentives today’s ruling creates for digging into the private lives of judges with shovels and pick-axes cannot be overstated,” Kozinski wrote at the time. That decision was vacated when the court took the case en banc. With the new ruling focusing on Ring, the Ninth Circuit decided not to address the other arguments made by Summerlin’s defense team. — Jason Hoppin OAKLAND JAIL TO REOPEN North County Jail, which was shuttered last year to save Alameda County money, will be back open for business in October, the county’s sheriff says. “I never dreamed that we would open it again,” said Sheriff Charles Plummer. Plummer shut down the Glenn E. Dyer Detention Facility in June 2002 to shave millions from his budget. But the move led to overcrowding at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin. Santa Rita, which can house up to 4,000 prisoners, took on more than 500 additional inmates when North County closed. Recently it has been near or over capacity, Plummer said. Plummer says it’s unclear what financial impact reopening the jail will have, noting that since he closed the jail the county’s budget woes have worsened. But there may be ways to raise money. With the jail closed, the sheriff has less capacity to hold federal inmates, which generates money for the county, Plummer said. Right now, keeping the jail closed isn’t an option, he said. “We have to relieve the pressure,” he added. — Jahna Berry DA’S NEW CASE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM The San Francisco DA plans to roll out a new $600,000-plus case management system by the end of the year. The DA’s office currently has nine so-called “dumb” terminals, where attorneys take turns retrieving information from the city’s court management system and the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, said Law Office Manager Reginald Smith. The new system will allow prosecutors to analyze crime patterns in house, among other things. Currently, to draw out statistics such as how many misdemeanors were filed in a year, the office has to request a report from an outside committee that meets only once a month, Smith said. The city’s criminal justice agencies started exploring the need for a new case management system together about five years ago, said Cynthia Caporizzo of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. “Like having a 1952 car,” she said, concerns had arisen about the availability of parts and expertise for the old system, which dates to the 1970s. The DA’s office will pay $637,500 initially to install its new system and buy software licenses, while maintenance and software updates will cost $95,625 annually after the first year, said Andrew Smith, vice president of Constellation Justice Systems, the Rochester, N.Y.-based vendor working with the DA’s office. Public Defender Jeff Adachi said he hopes to have his department’s own new system, which would be integrated with the district attorney’s, up and running early next year. — Pam Smith

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