Donovan’s Steakhouse


Follow SD Metro Magazine

Delicious Pinterest RSS
Advertise on SD Metro Magazine

Latest Tweets

Daily Business Report-Jan. 3, 2018

Daily Business Report-Jan. 3, 2018


State Auditor Blocked in Seeking Judicial Records

By Dan Walters | CALmatters

State Auditor Elaine Howle has a fearsome reputation for tunneling deeply into public agencies and finding nuggets of information that officials would prefer to remain hidden.

Recently, for instance, the Legislature directed Howle to delve into the complex finances of the University of California, and its cloistered executives, especially President Janet Napolitano, went into full DEFCON 1 mode.

Eventually, Howle learned that responses to her inquiries of officials at individual UC campuses were being routed through Napolitano’s top aides and sanitized of criticism before being forwarded to the auditors.

Howle blew the whistle on the laundering, two top executives walked the plank by resigning and the UC president was admonished by the system’s Board of Regents after taking semi-responsibility. The audit, meanwhile, determined that Napolitano was sitting on a $175 million secret stash of cash.

With that incident still reverberating, Howle finds herself in another faceoff with another agency over access to its secrets.

Responding to complaints from judicial reform groups, the Legislature authorized Howle to take a critical look at the Commission on Judicial Performance, a little-known agency charged with investigating complaints against judges and disciplining them when warranted.


The full Daily Business Report

Will Resume on January 5


Reformers contend that the CJP, which has been in business since 1960, is lax in investigating allegations of judicial misconduct but masks its poor performance by making virtually all of its actions secret.

Occasionally, the commission does publicly announce some disciplinary action, usually when the conduct involved is already well known. But under the constitutional sections that establish the commission’s authority, it has the sole power to decide what is and is not public.

Therefore, when Howle’s auditors came calling, seeking records on individual cases, the CJP balked, contending that even though state law gives her access to confidential records of public agencies, that access is trumped by its constitutional authority.

The commission took the unprecedented step of suing Howle and on Dec. 19, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos issued an order thwarting Howle, saying she “has no legal right to access the CJP’s confidential records.”

This is a rather fascinating conflict on several levels.

For one thing, as Judge Bolanos declared, it touches on the separation-of-powers issue. Can one branch of government – in this case the Legislature through Howle – rummage through the secrets of another, the judiciary?

Howle has already done so, in a sense, by excoriating the State Judicial Council, the policymaking arm of the Supreme Court, for its disastrous foray into a centralized case management system. And she didn’t hesitate to hammer UC, which is also constitutionally independent, for its financial mischief.

From a public policy standpoint, there is – or should be – no reason to shield CJP’s performance from scrutiny, especially since Howle’s authority to examine confidential records includes a caveat that none will be revealed to the public. She and the Legislature are legitimately interested in whether the CJP is doing its job, not in airing the dirty linen of individual judges.

Furthermore, it may be a fundamental conflict of interest for any judge – in this case Judge Bolanos – to side with the CJP when it invokes secrecy about judicial misbehavior.

That said, Bolanos may be legally correct in saying that the CJP’s constitutional authority supersedes Howle’s statutory authority.

If so, however, the Legislature needs to resolve the issue by elevating the auditor’s authority to constitutional status or otherwise making it clear that no agency can escape scrutiny, especially one supposedly protecting the integrity of the judiciary.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Latest Issue

Click here to view the PDF version of our magazine.

Subscribe to Daily Business Report

Advertise on SD Metro Magazine

Voice Your Opinion

We Want Your Opinions on San Diego’s Big Issues In the coming months, Probosky Research (one of California’s leading opinion research firms) will continue its partnership with SD METRO to survey San Diego residents about topics of interest to our readers. We’d like to throw open the door for suggestions for topics. What do you want to know? What do you think you know, but aren’t sure? What are you certain you know, but want to prove it beyond doubt? Ideally, we’d like to see questions that have to do with public policy.

Some areas may include Mayor Filner’s first 100 days job performance, should the city be responsible for economic growth and the creation of new jobs, how important are infrastructure improvements to our daily lives (streets and bridges, etc.), how important is water independence, how satisfied are residents with public transit or how do city residents value Balboa Park and other open spaces? Do you believe the City Council should revive the Plaza de Panama plan for Balboa Park?

You can email Probolsky Research directly with your ideas: