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SACRAMENTO � Assembly Democrats have dropped their demand that the governor reveal the identities of judges and lawyers who serve on his regional judicial candidate screening committees. Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, said judicial appointments secretary Sharon Majors-Lewis told him during recent negotiations over his Assembly Bill 159 that she had already decided to start publicly identifying committee members in the near future. “When we learned that, that they’re already doing that sort of thing, we decided to amend the bill,” Jones said. “I think we want to provide them the opportunity to do that.” A spokeswoman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Monday that administration officials had “nothing to announce at this time” about disclosing judicial screeners’ names. Jones last week tied legislation creating 50 new judgeships to a requirement that Schwarzenegger identify his appointments to controversial vetting committees located around the state. Jones and ethnic bar organizations have criticized the committees, suggesting they cater to well-connected insiders and hurt the chances of minority applicants. By dropping the disclosure amendment, Jones avoids the risk that Schwarzenegger may veto the much-needed new judgeships to avoid naming names. AB 159 would still require the governor to disclose the race and gender of applicants he does not submit to the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation. “Our goal is still to do everything we can to make this process more transparent and to ensure that we have a more diverse judiciary,” Jones said. Majors-Lewis has said publicly that screening committee members should remain anonymous so they can observe applicants without being recognized by them. Some members have chosen to identify themselves anyway, although few will speak publicly about their role. Arthur Scotland, presiding justice of the Third District Court of Appeal, has confirmed previously that he serves on one of the governor’s vetting committees. So has Riverside County Public Defender Gary Windom. Two lawyers, criminal defense attorney Alan Fenster of Beverly Hills and Orange County civil litigator Todd Theodora, advertise their committee appointments on their respective Web sites. “I think the public and the practicing attorneys and judges should know what the makeup of these committees are,” said Ralph Ochoa, a founding member of The Ochoa & Moore Law Firm in Sacramento and a three-year member of Schwarzenegger’s Judicial Selection Advisory Committee for the 22-county Sacramento Valley. Ochoa said he empathizes with those who think identifying members would open them up to undesired lobbying and political pressure. But he thinks the process would work better if people with opinions about a judicial applicant knew exactly who the screeners are and how to reach them. “I’d rather have everybody know who I am,” Ochoa said. “I would rather have the process be absent of criticism that somehow we’re running secret committees � I think it detracts from what we do.” Even with the screening committee issue quieted, Schwarzenegger faced a new legislative fight over his judicial picks Monday with the introduction of a bill that would require JNE to disclose the ratings it gives to all appointees. Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, said AB 1725 is “primarily a vehicle for discussion” following the July revelation that Schwarzenegger had appointed a San Bernardino County lawyer to the bench despite the fact that JNE gave him a “not qualified” rating. Although AB 1725 is vaguely worded, Lieu said he wants to ensure that the public knows when lawyers rated unqualified are appointed. Currently, JNE has the discretion to decide whether that information becomes public. “We want to have a more transparent process,” Lieu said. The assemblyman said he doesn’t expect the bill to receive a full vote in the Legislature until next year.

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