Unless we act, approximately thirty California counties and courts will pay “local judicial benefits” in addition to state compensation, to approximately 90% of 1,800 Superior Court judges in their 2015-2016 Budgets commencing July 1, 2105. The largest, by judges, are LA, San Diego, Orange, Santa Clara, Sacramento and San Francisco. See http://www.campaignforjudicialintegrity.org for all counties and courts.
In 2008, these payments were held to violate California Constitution Article 6, Section 19 in Sturgeon v. LA County. At the judges urging, in 2009, California enacted SBX 2 11, effective 5/20/2009. SBX 2 11, Section 5 gave the judges, who took the payments, and the governments and government employees, who gave the payments to the judges, retroactive immunity from California criminal prosecution, civil liability and disciplinary action. SBX 2 11 Section 2 allowed the payments to continue to judges currently in office as of 7/1/2008, without immunity. The last term ended January, 2013.
California criminal codes violated were: (1) Penal Code Section 96.5 – judge acting with knowledge of perverting and obstructing justice; (2) Penal Code Section 182 (a) (5) – judges and the governments and government employees conspiracy to pervert and obstruct justice, amongst others. Additionally, the judges were required to disqualify themselves from any case in which the county was a party, a witness or had an interest under California Code of Civil Procedure Section 170.1 (a) (6) (A) (3) and Code of Judicial Ethics, Canons 1, 2 A and 3E (1) and disclose the payments under Canon 3 E (2). Few, if any did. The payments also violated 18 U.S.C. Section 1346- the intangible right to honest services, as payments to a judge from a party are a bribe. There was no immunity from federal prosecution.
The payments corrupted criminal cases prosecuted by a county district attorney, family law cases where the county participated, eminent domain cases, traffic cases and any case involving or affecting the county.
The 2015 payments will be approximately $25-30 million. Over the years, the payments were approximately $400 million. We can end judicial corruption now by demanding the county supervisors and local courts remove the illegal payments from the 2015-2016 budgets!
Richard I. Fine, Ph.D., Strategic Consultant; Mediator; Chmn. Campaign for Judicial Integrity; Co Chmn. Judicial Reform Comm. DivorceCorp