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Monday, June 17, 2024 | Back issues
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Los Angeles Courts Favor Decentralization

(CN) - The largest court in the state voted to give its support to AB 1208, a bill that would shift the balance of power from a centralized administration to local trial courts. Presiding Judge Lee Edmon said the judges of Los Angeles Superior Court, which controls more than a dozen smaller districts, unanimously passed a motion supporting the bill.

"We think that AB 1208 is the right vehicle for change," Edmon said in an interview Thursday, the day after the vote. She said the court's executive board began polling Los Angeles Superior's 450 judges back in March, and "each district reported overwhelming support."

In a Wednesday e-mail to all Los Angeles judges, Edmon wrote: "At the meeting, we heard reports from all of the members of the Executive Committee on the input they obtained from judicial officers in their districts with respect to AB 1208. Following that discussion, the Executive Committee unanimously passed the following motion, with one abstention: 'Having heard and considered the overwhelming support of its bench officers for AB 1208, the Los Angeles Superior Court Executive Committee votes that the Los Angeles Superior Court support AB 1208.'"

"I did have a this sense around the court that it was obvious there was overhelming support," Edmon said Thursday. She said she has asked her executive board to send her individual comments from judges with their concerns about the branch.

The abstention came from Judge Gail Feuer, whose husband, Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) sits on the Judicial Council, the governing body of the judiciary.

Written by Assembly Majority Leader Charles Calderon (D-Montebello), AB 1208 will give local trial courts more authority in determining how to spend its funds, and Calderon has said it will go a long way toward curbing the power of the judiciary's 1,100-member bureaucracy, the Administrative Office of the Courts, which is headed by the Judicial Council.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye has already stated her opposition to the bill, saying she does not support a legislative remedy to governance issues she believes can be resolved within the branch.

Judge Stephen Czuleger, a former presiding judge in Los Angeles, said he generally supports AB 1208 and hopes the bill "can move us toward a can lead to a better working relationship between the trial courts and the bureaucracy in San Francisco."

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles Horan, a vocal critic of the AOC, said he was pleased with Wednesday's vote. "I am so proud that our over 400 judges of the Los Angeles Superior Court have voted in overwhelming numbers to support AB 1208," he said. "I likewise commend our elected Executive Committee for unanimously adopting that position. I hope that our new chief justice reconsiders her stated opposition to the bill in the face of the clear evidence that our state's trial judges support AB 1208."

Earlier this week, the head judge of one of the Bay Area's larger courts also announced her court has sided with the legislation's supporters. In a letter disseminated Tuesday, Presiding Judge Beth Labson Freeman said her fellow judges in San Mateo Superior Court "overwhelmingly agreed" to back AB 1208.

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