In December, 2015, the article was cited at FN 12 of the case Sturgeon v. County of Los Angeles, 242 al.App.4th 1437 (2015) [Sturgeon III]. Sturgeon III held that the supplemental payments paid on July 1, 2008 to Superior Court judges were to be paid to all judges of the court including judges appointed or elected after July 1, 2008 “on the same terms and conditions as were in effect on that date”.
The Court held the payments were to be either identical to the 2008 payments or the county pays nothing. [242 Cal.App.4th at 1450]
The significance of this ruling was it made unlawful all or nearly all supplemental payments made by counties or local courts to Superior Court judges since May 20, 2009, when SBX 2 11 became effective.
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- California SBX-211; A Call for Action!
By interpreting SBX 2 11, Section 2 [codified as Govt. Code Section 68220] to guarantee extra income to Superior Court judges in addition to their state compensation, the Court unknowingly achieved the goal of eliminating the unconstitutional and unlawful supplemental benefits to Superior Court judges.
This occurred since July 1, 2008, literally no county or local court paid the identical amount of supplemental payments to Superior Court judges as they did in 2008. For example, LA County increased its payments from $50,000.00 per judge in 2008 to $57,000.00 per judge in 2014.
Sturgeon III unknowingly became a poster child for the Campaign for Judicial Integrity and all other judicial reform groups.
Since 1985, approximately $400 million was paid to California’s Superior Court judges from counties and local courts. In 2008, the Court in Sturgeon v. County of Los Angeles, 167 Cal.App.4th 630 (2008) [Sturgeon I] held these payments violated California Constitution, Article VI, Section 19.
In response, the California Legislature and the Governor, at the behest of the judges enacted emergency legislation SBX 2 11 on 2/20/2009, effective 5/20/2009.
SBX Section 5 gave the judges and the governments and government employees who gave the payments to the judges retroactive immunity from criminal prosecution, civil liability and disciplinary action under California law. No immunity given for future payments.
As drafted by the Legislature and interpreted by the Legislative Counsel, SBX Section 2 allowed only judges sitting as of July 1, 2008 to continue receiving payments during their current term. The last current term ended January, 2013.
SBX Section 2 was challenged as unconstitutional. The court in Sturgeon v. County of Los Angeles, 191 Cal.App.4th 344 (2011) affirmed that the payments violated California Constitution, Article VI, Section 19 but held that SBX Section 2 [codified as Govt. Code Section 68220] was an “interim measure” until the Legislature found a permanent solution to the problem. [Sturgeon II]
The Legislature did not act resulting in Sturgeon III and its reinterpretation of SBX Section 2.
Sturgeon III shifted the dynamic. The burden is now on the judges, the counties, the local courts, the U.S. Attorney General, the State Legislature, the State Attorney General, the District Attorneys, the Commission on Judicial Performance and the Supreme Court and others to enforce the law,
The Superior Court judges must either give back all the monies received since 2008 if such were above the annual 2008 level, or the judges and the counties, county supervisors, local courts and presiding judges and employees of both face criminal prosecution on both the state [Cal. Penal Code Sections 96.5 and 182 (a) (5)] and federal level [18 U.S.C. Section 1346].
Additionally, the Judges may be impeached by the State Assembly and convicted by the State Senate for “misconduct in office”.
Further, the Judges may be removed from office by the Commission on Judicial Performance and the California Supreme Court for taking illegal payments.
The question now is will these individuals and entities fulfill their obligations?
Richard I. Fine, Ph.D., Strategic Consultant, Mediator, Chmn., Campaign for Judicial Integrity, Co Chmn., Judicial Reform Comm. DivorceCorp