California Bar Journal
CBJ - December 2008 #03.
Getting a different perspective on courts
California Bar Journal December 2008 Getting a different perspective on courtsBy Diane Curtis Staff WriterFormer Gov. Pete Wilson made a plea for renewed adherence to the separation of powers. Three state chief justices lamented the politicizing of judicial campaigns. And luminaries from throughout the legal profession tackled such topics as same-sex marriage, the death penalty, family law, mandatory arbitration and application of freedom of speech.
The setting was the University of California Clark Kerr campus for what was billed as the first conference on the California Supreme Court sponsored by the court and UC-Berkeley School of Law.
"I think the conference went very well," said Chief Justice Ronald George. "Ninety-eight percent of all cases are decided in the state courts, and it was worthwhile and illuminating to focus on the work of the California Supreme Court, whose decisions are the most followed by other courts of all the state high courts in the nation," George said. "The conference provided an opportunity for the justices and other judges and lawyers to hear different perspectives on the work of the courts."
Wilson, keynote speaker for the daylong event, took a jocular jibe at the court even as he talked of judicial appointments as being a governor's most important legacy and before he launched into more serious topics. Noting that he had appointed five of the seven current Supreme Court justices to either the high court or another court, he recalled that the court had determined that a term-limits initiative amounted to a lifetime ban against a politician running for the same office. "I've been waiting to tell them something, and it's this," Wilson said. "You ungrateful bastards!"
He got a big laugh from a crowd of about 150, including George and other justices.
Getting down to business, Wilson, who is now a partner in the Los Angeles office of Bingham McCutchen LLP, said he did not believe the importance of judicial restraint could be overstated. Judges "should not violate the doctrine of separation of powers" by setting policy, Wilson said. "They should not go beyond their role as judges." But he also said that the legislature and executive branch must be equally vigilant not to assume a role not assigned to...