The article below is startling in that it is the FIRST-EVER California state audit to hold judges accountable. Judges are human beings and they have their own interests, weaknesses, and biases. They do NOT have any special immunities from accountability in their job performance.
The second article discusses the judiciary’s worn out excuse of “violation of the constitutional separation of powers.” This isn’t about separation of the legislative branch and the judicial branch, this is about checks and balances. The legislature has the right to investigate any branch of government for any reason and We the People need to ensure that this happens in every state of the nation.
First-Ever State Audit Aims to Hold Judges Accountable
Lawmakers have called for an audit of California’s Commission on Judicial Performance for the first time in the agency’s 56-year history.
The commission, which is responsible for disciplining judges, has drawn the ire of activists who say it protects bad jurists and from bench officers who say it over-penalizes them for minor missteps.
A joint audit committee of the California Legislature authorized the review in a unanimous vote this week. The audit will look at 26 issues, including whether the commission upholds due process when looking into allegations against judges and how investigators determine which complaints to dismiss.
In the past decade, the judicial commission has fielded anywhere from 900 to 1,200 complaints about judges each year. But 90 percent of those cases were closed right away, while more resulted in no discipline even after an investigation.
Only 3.4 percent ended in disciplinary action, and less than a percent led to public censure. None of these decisions were transparent.
Critics have demanded accountability for the judicial commission for years, claiming the agency works in secret and gives biased and inept judges a pass. In Santa Clara County, the criticism has largely centered on family court.
California judicial watchdog agency sues over state audit
The California agency that disciplines judges is suing the state auditor over the scope of an audit ordered this year by the Legislature, saying the probe is too broad and violates the constitutional separation of powers.
The Commission on Judicial Performance filed the suit Oct. 20 in San Francisco Superior Court. The agency contends allowing auditors to pore over its files of complaints and investigations against judges is barred by the constitution.
State auditor blocked in seeking judicial records
State Auditor Elaine Howle has a fearsome reputation for tunneling deeply into public agencies and finding nuggets of information that officials would prefer to remain hidden.
Recently, for instance, the Legislature directed Howle to delve into the complex finances of the University of California, and its cloistered executives, especially President Janet Napolitano, went into full DEFCON 1 mode.
Eventually, Howle learned that responses to her inquiries of officials at individual UC campuses were being routed through Napolitano’s top aides and sanitized of criticism before being forwarded to the auditors.
Howle blew the whistle on the laundering, two top executives walked the plank by resigning and the UC president was admonished by the system’s Board of Regents after taking semi-responsibility. The audit, meanwhile, determined that Napolitano was sitting on a $175 million secret stash of cash.
With that incident still reverberating, Howle finds herself in another faceoff with another agency over access to its secrets.
Responding to complaints from judicial reform groups, the Legislature authorized Howle to take a critical look at the Commission on Judicial Performance, a little-known agency charged with investigating complaints against judges and disciplining them when warranted.