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Two judges with a combined 48 years on the bench announced on Friday that they’ll resign from the California Judges Association on Aug. 1 unless the organization’s leaders renounce a Judicial Council plan to require continuing education classes for judges. Justice Thomas Hollenhorst of the Fourth District Court of Appeal and Alameda County Superior Court Judge Julie Conger joined Philip Gutierrez, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge who left the CJA in June to protest its “failure to act decisively” against the Council’s proposal. Long active in CJA education and ethics committees, Hollenhorst and Conger in previous years have both received the organization’s Bernard Jefferson award for contributions to judicial education. “The proposed rule is unnecessary, insulting and unconstitutional,” Conger wrote. “The California judicial education system, universally regarded as the finest in the country, has achieved this reputation BECAUSE it is voluntary on the part of both students and teachers, who are committed to maintaining the highest standards of judicial competence.” Hollenhorst, who said he has taught more than 200 judicial education classes, said mandatory coursework will only create mediocrity in the curricula. “Compulsory education takes the pressure off producing high quality programming, allows agendas into the educational process and provides for a high degree of staff control inconsistent with judicial needs,” Hollenhorst said in a letter to CJA leaders. The Judicial Council’s proposal to require judges to complete 30 hours of continuing education coursework every three years has drawn loud criticism from some judges who say the judiciary’s leadership is overstepping its authority. Critics have also blasted CJA leaders for not standing up to the Council, even though the organization has not taken a position yet on the plan. In a message sent to members Friday, CJA President Terry Friedman, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge, said he regretted Hollenhorst and Conger’s resignations and “the tone of the debate” over continuing education. “I suggest that all those judges who hold strong views on this important issue exercise tolerance for the views of other judges,” Friedman wrote in an e-mail. “There is more than one point of view among judges in the state, and there is a rational basis for the different views.” The CJA’s board of directors is scheduled to consider taking a stand on the continuing-education rule at its July 28 meeting, four days after the Judicial Council will close its comment period on the proposal. Friedman said Council administrators have assured him that they will weigh any comments the CJA submits by Aug. 7. The Judicial Council is slated to consider the rule change at its October meeting. “I urge my bench colleagues not to rush to judgment,” Friedman wrote Friday. “Instead, I ask California Judges to continue debating the merits of the rule. In that regard, I hope those who hold strong views would resist the temptation to debate by ultimatum.” In a June e-mail to CJA members, Friedman said judges support “voluntary” educational programs.

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