‘BAGEL JUDGE’ BILL GOOD FOR BENCH
Your Aug. 10 edition reports that a meritorious measure (AB 2519) by Assemblyman Tom Umberg was held in the Senate Judiciary Committee after an Aug. 8 hearing because of an alleged fear of unintended consequences ["'Bagel judge' bill runs into opposition"]. The bill requires at least 10 years of active State Bar membership to qualify for judicial office. It derives from Article VI, section 15 of the State Constitution, requiring membership in the State Bar for 10 years immediately preceding selection.
As legislative advocate Mike Belote points out, a 1989 constitutional amendment declared that a lawyer who, upon request, becomes an inactive State Bar member remains eligible for a judgeship (a provision emanating with a former state Senate colleague of mine whom I decline to identify) but regrettably failed to clarify whether such lawyer must belong to the State Bar as an active member for 10 years to secure judgeship eligibility.
Under AB 2519 an applicant for judicial office can be inactive at the time of selection so long as he or she possesses any 10 years of prior active membership in the State Bar. In the same vein, one of the more visible interstices of the State Constitution concerns the absence even of a requirement that the attorney general be a lawyer! (Perhaps that explains the recent six years of lack of State Bar membership of one of the principal candidates for attorney general this November.)
AB 2519 constitutes a compelling, meritorious effectuation of a fundamental aspect of judicial office eligibility.
Editor’s note: Quentin Kopp is a retired judge of the San Mateo County Superior Court.
JUDGES SHOULDN’T BE ELECTED IN FIRST PLACE
The essence of the Aug. 22 article “Chief justices sound alarm over judicial campaigns,” that judicial elections are somehow different than other elections and that the parties involved should somehow act in a different manner then they would in more “typical” elections ignores both the nature of elections, the nature of competition and the case law in this area. The problem is the very idea of judicial elections. The “Founding Fathers” did not provide for judicial elections for federal judges as they obviously understood what the electoral process was about and realized that you could not have a truly independent judiciary and elected judges. Unfortunately, most of those who bemoan the crassness of judicial elections are unable or unwilling to argue that judges should not be elected in the first place.
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