“The governor declared in his State of the State speech earlier this year that access to justice is a bedrock principle of our democracy,” said Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, the bill’s author. “Seven million Californians cannot access the courts without significant language assistance, and the governor vetoed the legislation to remedy this situation.”
Schwarzenegger also vetoed a related bill that would have created a panel charged with recommending ways to revise the current certifying process for court interpreters. The governor called the bill unnecessary, saying the Judicial Council should just ask an existing committee to come up with recommendations for improvements.
- Bolstered the attorney general’s ability to recover costs and fees in civil cases. Attorney General Bill Lockyer lobbied hard for the bill, pressing wavering lawmakers and even reviving the measure after it initially died on the Assembly floor.
“We’re disappointed,” Lockyer spokesman Tom Dresslar said after the veto. “This wasn’t radical stuff. It was a narrow proposal that said when the taxpayers have to take money out of their pocket to take corporate wrong-doers to court, they should get that money back.”
But the governor sided with critics like the Civil Justice Association of California, which said the bill would turn the attorney general into a “bounty hunter” who chooses defendants based on the size of their bank accounts.
- Revived a so-called split-recovery provision meant to funnel 75 percent of all punitive damage awards to the state. Schwarzenegger enacted a 75 percent split-recovery law as a potential budget-booster in 2004. But when the law sunset on July 1 this year, the state had not collected a single dime from punitives. Plaintiff attorneys � whose political representation at the Capitol took no position on the bill � note that few, if any, significant lawsuits would have started and concluded in that two-year time frame. And, they add, most parties settle lawsuits privately before punitive damages ever materialize, leaving nothing to report to the state.
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