The California Judicial Council recently recommended that California Superior Courts should no longer require citizens to post 100% of a traffic fine in order to obtain a trial.
The California Judicial Council refused to address the more important problem that the judges in approximately 30 of California's 58 Superior Courts should not be hearing traffic tickets as they currently receive payments from counties or local courts called "local judicial benefits" in addition to their State compensation.
According to the State and County Budgets, fees from court costs added on to the tickets go to the local court and the county making these payments.
Sturgeon v. County of LA (2008) held these payments violated California Constitution Article 6, Section 19. In 2009, the California Judicial Council drafted SBX 2 11, enacted as "emergency legislation" on 2/20/2009, effective 5/20/2009. Section 5 gave the judges and the governments and government employees who gave the payments to the judges California retroactive immunity from criminal prosecution, civil liability and disciplinary action. No immunity given for future payments. Section 2 allowed continued payments to judges during their current terms as of 7/1/2008. The last term ended January, 2013.
Code of Judicial Ethics Canon 3E (2) requires the judges to disclose relevant information- i.e., the court and county payments to judges in traffic cases. Canon 3E (1) and Code of Civil Procedure Section 170.1 (a) (6) (A) (iii) require the judge to disqualify himself/herself when an objective person may doubt the judge may be impartial. The payments to the judge create this doubt.
The payments also may violate California Penal Code Section 96.5 - judge action with knowledge of perverting or obstructing justice by taking the payments and Section 182 (a) (5) - conspiracy to obstruct justice by county and courts making payments and judge taking payments.
Richard I. Fine, Ph.D., Strategic Consultant, Mediator, Chmn., Campaign for Judicial Integrity, Co Chmn., Judicial Reform Comm. DivorceCorp less