CALIFORNIA COURTS AND THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM

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1 CALIFORNIA COURTS AND THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM

2 California Courts and the Judicial System Unlike the federal system, in which judges are appointed by the president, confirmed by the Senate, and serve for life with no further review (unless impeached), the California state system involves a complicated combination of appointments and elections for judges.

3 California Courts and the Judicial System Cost of judges and their courts: $2 billion annually 2/3rds comes from the state Courts deal with 8 million civil and criminal cases annually State has more lawyers per person than anywhere else in the world High cost of legal services leaves millions of poor underserved

4 California Courts and the Judicial System In addition to legislation, ballot initiatives often determine how courts operate Proposition 36 approved by voters in year 2000, revised penalties for drug abuse, replaced jail sentences with drug rehabilitation, mediation rather than court trials used to resolve family disputes, etc.

5 California Courts Two Levels of Courts: Trial and Appellate Courts Trial Courts called Superior Courts. Trial courts determine matters of fact. Juries usually used.

6 Superior Courts Deal with civil disputes (law suits for damages, to prevent harm, or irreparable damage). Civil matters involve any dispute between parties which cannot be resolved with legal assistance. Deal with criminal cases (violation of criminal laws ranging from minor infractions (jaywalking) to serious felonies (murder). Criminal law deals with matters that are considered injurious to the people of the state of California.

7 Superior Courts Subdivisions of Superior Courts Traffic courts Small Claims courts Probate court (wills/estates) Family Law courts Juvenile courts

8 Superior Courts Superior Court Judges Judges are elected countywide (58 counties) on a nonpartisan ballot for sixyear terms. Judges must be attorneys and members of the California bar for 10 years. Judges earn $127,935 annually.

9 Appellate Courts Appellate Courts Appellate courts decide questions of procedure. For example, were the rights of the accused violated by the police during their questioning? Two levels of appellate courts: Courts of Appeal and the state Supreme Court.

10 Court of Appeal Court of Appeal Six district courts of appeal exist (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Fresno, San Jose, and San Diego) with 105 justices. Hear appeals from superior courts or certain state agencies. Judges earn $146,404.

11 Supreme Court Supreme Court The Court is composed of seven justices, including a chief justice who is appointed specifically to that position. Only area of original jurisdiction are requests from death row prisoners asking the court to review their sentence.

12 Supreme Court Supreme Court Most cases come from appellate courts. Court decides which cases it will hear. Chief Justice earns $163,767; Associate Justices earn $156,162.

13 Supreme Court: How Justices are Chosen Justices are chosen by a complex process. Governor forwards names of potential justices to the Commission on Judicial Nominee Evaluation. Commission ranks nominees. Governor chooses nominees for Supreme Court or one of six Courts of Appeal. Nominations are sent to the Commission on Judicial Appointments.

14 Supreme Court: How Justices are Chosen Public hearings are held. Two of the three Commission members must approve an appointment. New justice takes place on bench. Next election, new justice is either confirmed or rejected by electorate. If voters confirm selection, new justices serve the rest of the twelve-year term.

15 Supreme Court: How Justices are Chosen After twelve-year term, voters again voice opinion during a general election. Justices are removable through voter recall, but this process has rarely occurred.

16 Supreme Court: How Justices are Chosen Few judges begin their careers by running for office. Most judgeships are initially filled because there is a vacancy due to death, retirement, or creation of new judgeships by the legislatures. Governor fills these vacancies. Governors can use judicial appoints to promote his/her agenda

17 Juries California has two types of juries Trial Juries are created for the length of a particular trial. For felony trials, the jury is composed of twelve citizens; for misdemeanor cases or civil trials, a case can be heard by nine jurors. Trial juries are found through voter registration and motor vehicle license lists. County courts send out notices asking citizens to serve; penalties for failure to respond have increased to $1,500 in some counties.

18 Juries County Grand Juries are made up of a select group of citizens nominated by superior court judges who serve a oneyear term for minimal compensation. County grand juries investigate situations of possible criminal activity and bring indictments against either public officials or private parties.

19 Jury System Criticized Reasons for criticism of jury system include: Low compensation for jurors Potential for emotional decision-making Poor use of jurors time when they agree to serve

20 Jury System Criticized Efforts to improve the jury system: One-day-or-one-trial system (allows people to get back to work more quickly) Use of pager and call-in systems to avoid long waits Improved jury waiting areas

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