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It’s on to the state Legislature � and likely a big battle � for a controversial proposal to amend the state Constitution. On Friday, the California Judicial Council unanimously approved a long-debated plan to revise Article VI of the Constitution to reinforce the independence of the judicial branch of government. The proposal, which gives the Judicial Council more power over state courts, had stirred up a fuss among some judges who had problems with the fact that Chief Justice Ronald George made most of the appointments to the council. They desired a more democratic approach. Compromises paved over most differences, though, and the judiciary seemed in lockstep Friday, with representatives of administrative presiding judges, presiding judges, court executive officers and the California Judges Association offering nothing but praise. That pleased state Sen. Joe Dunn, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who told the council that it would be important from this point forward that the judiciary “speak with one voice.” The Garden Grove Democrat said the proposal gives the judicial branch an “extraordinarily unique opportunity” to take a stand on the separation of powers. But he warned that the hard part has just begun. “Now we have to deal with the legislative branch and the executive branch on these issues,” Dunn said. “And they are not going to give up power easily. It’s the nature of the beast.” The proposed amendments include changing the way judges are elected and paid, and putting into the Constitution Judicial Council powers � such as budgetary responsibility, judicial policy-making and management of court facilities � currently set by state statute. Dunn said that he hopes legislators will be amenable to the amendments, but that if they aren’t he would be “very prepared to go the other route” of putting the proposal up as a ballot initiative. “It is about the survival of the democracy we live in,” he said. Chief Justice George echoed Dunn’s take-it-to-the-mat statements. Earlier, mindful of the doubts some judges have about the concept, he said that the proposal was meant “to unify the judicial branch and not be divisive.” “It’s had a lot of vetting,” George said. “Things have been added and things have been taken out.”

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