SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - In a lobbying effort that has caused a strong reaction among judges around the state, the head of the California Judges Association is arguing against a bill that would return fiscal and policy autonomy to the state's 58 trial courts.
The president of the judges group, Keith Davis, says he is arguing against the legislation in his capacity as an individual judge from San Bernardino while the author of the legislation, Assembly Member Charles Calderon, says that was not his impression.
"I have never taken a public position as CJA president with regard to AB 1208 and I made it very clear that I was speaking to him as judge from San Bernardino County, not as CJA president," Davis said.
The judge said he had always been careful to avoid taking a public position on the bill in his role as the head of the judges organization. "You can look far and wide and you will not see anywhere that I have ever taken a position for or against AB 1208 as CJA president."
The author of the legislation, Los Angeles Democrat Charles Calderon, saw things differently.
"The implication, whether he intended it or not, was that I'm president of the CJA which represents the judges, and we don't have a problem with the current system," said Calderon. "I'm under the understanding that there are a number of trial judges out there that feel strongly that some changes should be made."
According to Calderon, Davis came to his office "literally on the day of day or the day before I had put the bill across the desk." Calderon said he understood Davis to be in opposition to AB 1208 or any bill that would transfer greater funding authority to the local courts.
"I understood him to generally be against any bill that would change any of the funding structure that currently exists," said Calderon. The legislator said the gist of the judge's argument was that, "You have to remember what it was like, it was a feudal system and we don't want to go back to those days."
Those in the judiciary who oppose AB 1208, and who correspondingly support the current centralization of fiscal and policy authority, have argued that the bill would split the courts into judicial fiefdoms, a position articulated by Appellate Justice Richard Huffman in a letter recently published in the San Diego Union Tribune.
"That appears to be the company line. I've been hearing that from a lot of people that have come to talk to me in opposition to the bill," Calderon said. The Los Angeles Democrat added that during his conversation with Davis, he pushed him on whether or not Davis wanted to see counties in control of their own funding. "We went back and forth on that," he said.
While Davis's lobbying effort against AB 1208 titled the Trial Court Rights Act has brought criticism from the judges who support the measure, there does not appear to be a consensus among the board members of the California Judges Association over whether to support or oppose the bill. Some judges strongly favor it while others are sharply critical.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Steve White, who said he was surprised when Calderon told him about his meeting with Davis.