State Bar governors are getting tired of taking the blame for the JNE Commission’s bobbles — such as leaking judicial nominees’ ratings or issuing ratings that discount a person’s full experiences.
So they’re talking about taking the bull (headed) JNE by the horns.
During a State Bar Board of Governors committee meeting this morning, ideas were thrown out beyond those suggested in an interim report by a State Bar task force, which already recommended making ratings of trial judges more transparent, changing the “not qualified” rating to something less demeaning and quickly naming a committee to investigate leaks when they happen.
Among the ideas discussed: Change the composition and numbers of the current 3-person panel that reviews JNE Commission ratings, and issue a statement that ratings not be limited to a nominee’s legal work experiences.
Richard Rubin, a non-lawyer member of the board who chaired a committee looking into JNE, said there are talks about expanding the current 3-member JNE Review Committee by a greater number and making sure it is diverse. Currently, the review committee is comprised of two former JNE commissioners and a sitting member of the Board of Governors.
Rubin, of San Francisco, noted that the review committee has “unbridled” authority to reverse JNE Commission ratings. “That’s a lot of power,” he said.
Rubin expressed the view that former JNE commissioners might have an “over-weaning interest” in protecting the review panel’s previous processes and that “diversity” of membership could make a difference.
Bar governor Angela Davis, an assistant U.S. attorney in L.A., also suggested issuing a statement demanding that the JNE Commission consider experience beyond legal work. Last year, the commission rated Chuck Poochigian not qualified for the appellate bench, mainly because he had been a legislator for more than two decades.
Experience such as that can be “invaluable,” Davis said.
When a staff lawyer noted that evaluation of broad experience is already in the JNE rules, Bar governor Jon Streeter, a partner with Keker & Van Nest, said: “Maybe we just need to add an exclamation point.”
No action was taken on the report today.