Latest Version of Open Commitee Rule Exempts Rule Committees

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - The latest version of an open meetings rule for Judicial Council advisory committees further narrows the committee meetings open to the press and public, after an earlier version was criticized by press and open government groups for its many exemptions to the open meeting requirement.
     The new language lists seven "rules committees" as exempt from open meeting requirements.
     The accompanying comment said the rules committee focus on legislation, rules and standards that require "a complex exchange of views" that might be misunderstood or subject judges to disqualification.
     The committees considered "rules committees" are actually titled as "advisory" committees for appellates, civil, criminal, family, probate and traffic law. The internal "Rules and Projects" committee is also declared exempt.
     Two additional advisory groups on jury instructions, as well as the internal committee on litigation, can also close their doors, under the latest version of the open committee rule.
     The explanation says they discuss topics that judges cannot talk about in public because of "ethical standards governing the judiciary."
     The new version of the rule also says any meetings that involve a recommendation that the Judical Council spend public funds will be open.
     And it still includes a deep and broad list of exemptions that allow a committee to go into secret session. the exemptions have been narrowed from the original 17.
     Some are combined, and others were scratched altogether, such as an exemption for discussions on topics that are not going into a report for the council, member training and allegations of professional misconduct.
     The new language also attempts to explain the exemptions and provide examples. Under trade secrets, for instance, it says, the Technology Committee could meet in a closed session to discuss a vendor proposal or watch a vendor demonstration for a computer project.
     The public has until Feb. 7, 2014 to comment on the rule, which will take effect July 1.