From March to August 2016, CJE worked in coalition with Court Reform LLC and a statewide coalition that we pulled together to audit the California Commission on Judicial Performance (CJP), the powerful state agency that is supposed to be disciplining our state’s nearly 2,000 judges when they violate the canons of judicial ethics.
As the sole oversight agency of California’s judiciary, the CJP plays a critical role in maintaining the integrity of the courts and promoting a fair justice system. Such a vital agency should not operate in secret, nor should it withhold important information from the public, which it has been doing for the past 56 years.
The CJP admits that less than 2% of all complaints filed by average California litigants or their family and friends have resulted in the discipline of our state’s judges, in a 20 year report. This is a disturbing statistic that proves the need to reform the state’s only judicial oversight agency, which was created back in 1961 in large part to “protect the public.” The CJP is clearly failing in its mission.
On August 10, 2016, the California Legislature approved our historic request to audit the California Commission on Judicial Performance for the first time since its creation in 1961. The audit enjoyed widespread bipartisan support from the Legislature, court reform advocates, and yes, even California judges. The CJP announced that it welcomed the audit and was happy to present evidence that it was complying with its Constitutional mandate to protect the public.
CJP’s Attempt to Block the State Audit
Despite the CJP’s attempt to block state auditor, Elaine Howle, from executing the legislature’s order to audit the agency, we were thrilled to see the state legislature finally awakening to its responsibility to provide checks and balances to this important branch of government that wields tremendous power over the lives of millions of Californians. The audit is currently stalled pending resolution of the CJP Lawsuit Against California State Auditor.
- October 24, 2016: The Recorder, Judicial Discipline Commission Sues to Restrict State Audit
- September 16, 2016: Marin Independent Journal, Marin Voice: There are sound reasons for audit of judicial commission
- September 13, 2016: ProPublica, Call in Congress for Family Court Reform
Check out CJE’s Blog Post: Is the CJP Letting the Criminal Statute of Limitations Run on Egregious Judicial Misconduct Cases?
Read this 2010 letter to see how the Judicial Branch has tried to thwart the State Auditor in the past.
Proposed Changes to Rules of Commission on Judicial Performance –
Submission by Court Reform LLC and Center for Judicial Excellence – September 30, 2016 – California Commission on Judicial Performance, Victoria B. Henley
March 28, 2016 Oversight Hearing On Judicial Accountability
June 2021 ~ AB 1577 Commission on Judicial Performance Unanimously Passes in the Assembly, Then Passed and Funded as Urgency Measure via CA Budget Bill
AB 1577 Bill Highlights 1-Page Summary
The Assembly Judiciary Committee unanimously approved California AB 1577, that was then included into AB 143, which was passed and funded in the budget bill as an urgency measure. As a result of the bill’s successful passage, a 15-member Committee to Review the Operations & Structure of the Commission on Judicial Performance will be formed to provide a substantial opportunity to implement the State Auditor’s 2019 report recommendations and reform the largest court system in the United States by creating an entirely new culture of judicial accountability in California that does not currently exist.
In 2020, the Center for Judicial Excellence was able to increase the number of public member seats on this 15-member committee, securing seven seats for members of the public to participate. CJE also led the 3-year legislative effort to complete the first official state audit of the CJP in its then-56-year history which will serve as the roadmap for this newly formed Committee’s work.
How to Apply for a Public Member Appointment to the New Committee
Listen to the recording of the first public meeting, held on Apr. 19, 2022 here.
Have a complaint about a California judge?
You can file a complaint with the Commission on Judicial Performance at their website here.