CJAC: Civil Justice Association of California

Mar 5, 2012

AB 1208 Erodes or Reverses Gains in Court Unification

Daily Journal
March 5, 2012

In response to Emily Green’s well done summary of the debate over Assembly Bill 1208 (“Courts bill would shift power but to whom?” – Feb 21st), the Civil Justice Association of California (CJAC) must emphasize a few points about this legislation.

AB 1208 is a warning shot across the bow of the Judicial Council. That is its major virtue and vice. It says loud and clear that important public officials, including judges, are displeased with how the Judicial Council, under the leadership of the Chief Justice, has for several years funded trial courts, allocated judicial resources, and married court administration and information to workable computer technology. But AB 1208 proposes throwing the baby out with the bath water. That is its vice and why it should be viewed more as a springboard for internal dialogue and change rather than an end in itself.

While court unification under the Judicial Council has not gone as smoothly as many would wish, it has achieved significant uniformity in rules and procedures (including jury instructions, expedited jury trials, and electronic discovery), efficiencies in administration and increased access to justice.

CJAC values greatly the increasing efficiencies that the Judicial Council has brought. The creation, for example, of expedited jury trials – one or two day civil trials, binding, with no record, where all evidentiary issues are decided ahead of time – is a tremendously positive innovation for both plaintiffs and defendants, and one that saves all important judicial resources.

AB 1208 would erode or reverse these gains while perpetuating divisiveness amongst judges about how best to put their judicial house in order. That is why the CJAC, along with our chief nemesis, the Consumer Attorneys of California, oppose AB 1208. We have a common interest in securing certainty, uniformity, efficiency and economy in the administration of justice.

To that end, we oppose AB 1208 and any efforts to factionalize our court system. We must work to protect and strengthen the administration of, and access to, justice for all Californians.

Kim Stone
President, Civil Justice Association of California

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