Jolly Ron George showed up at the California Supreme Court today. Then testy George made a brief appearance. But jolly George had the last word.
The California chief justice opened oral arguments by noting that Justice Carol Corrigan was out sick and Justice Joyce Kennard was still recovering from surgery — and both would be viewing videotapes of the hearings later. Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar, he explained, had recused herself from the first case and would be replaced by Third District Presiding Justice Arthur Scotland.
“So we’re back to a five-person, all-male court,” George announced jollily. Midway through the first case, though, George got irked when John Vail, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Litigation in Washington, D.C., kept talking over him as he tried to ask a question.
“I’m trying to speak to you, counsel,” the chief said sharply. “Will you let me?”
A chastened Vail shut up.
Jolly George returned in the second argument when Los Angeles lawyer Dennis Moss was trying to assert that the state’s courts have more financial resources than administrative agencies, like the state Department of Industrial Relations.
A smiling George — who’s been putting in long hours in Sacramento to save the courts’ budgets and is aware that all state courts are closed one day a month for savings — told Moss he wasn’t going to “take you on about the judicial resources” only because Moss’ time at the lectern was up.
When Moss came back for rebuttal, he meekly apologized.
“It wasn’t offensive,” the chief said to a rousing round of laughter from the courtroom. “It was just inaccurate.”