Arnold’s Pettiness & The Revenge of Poochigian

I feel like I can’t help but get really, really shrill with Arnold Schwarzenegger.  See, the thing is that he’s now shown himself to be a petty, vindictive political animal. Nothing new, nothing post-partisan. He’s a politician who carries a grudge.

Case in point, Arnold vetoed the rather standard reauthorization of funding for the California State Bar. Basically, the State Bar is a quasi-governmental organization. Funding comes entirely from the dues of licensed attorneys.  And while you can find plenty of attorneys (this one included) that moan about the dues, it’s not like there are any tea parties organizing.

Yet, it is clear that this veto has little to do with the fees, and a whole lot more to do with an unqualified judge: one former state Sen. Chuck Poochigian.  If you’ve been reading Calitics over the past few months, you’ll have read about his nomination and subsequent confirmation as a judge on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal.  Thing is that the Bar rated him as “not qualified.”  But the part that really got them in trouble was the fact that the score got leaked to the press before the confirmation hearing.

Of course, I suppose it doesn’t matter that Chuck Poochigian isn’t qualified for the job. He was never a high-flying litigator with a vast record of trials. And he never served as a judge.  Ron George, the Chief Justice, for his part, castigated the bar for not considering his political experience (although they actually did).  The fact is that Poochigian really just doesn’t have the experience that you typically see for a judge. And the time in the Legislature? No, that’s really not the same thing.

This brings us back to Arnold vetoing the bill.  He was simply pissed that the Bar didn’t play along with his little game for Poochigian, and basically stated that:

In his veto message, Schwarzenegger cited a recent audit critical of the bar and questioned the group’s “impartiality in considering judicial appointments.” The July audit found rising costs at the bar and poor internal controls, which allowed a former employee to embezzle nearly $676,000.

“The conduct of the State Bar itself must be above reproach,” Schwarzenegger wrote in his veto. “Regrettably, it is not.” (LAT 10/120/09)

Interesting that Arnold didn’t mind letting the Chiropractic Commission or the body that licenses nurses fester as they failed to do their jobs, jobs that affect the very health of millions of Californians. Yet, you mess with his political agenda, and you’ll get the horns.

Post-partisan, huh?

3 thoughts on “Arnold’s Pettiness & The Revenge of Poochigian”

  1. I do not support Poochigian being a Court of Appeal judge, but I’m going to say straight out that it’s because of his politics.

    There is no constitutional or legal requirement that I am aware of, other than being a lawyer for 10 years, in order to become a judge. You can even be a pro-tem after 5 years.

    Should that be changed? Maybe. I think we are ill-served by our current judicial elite, personally.

    Not funding the State Bar over this is bullshit, no doubt. But, my hope is that the next Governor will be able to appoint whomever he chooses, regardless of what kind of legal experience they have as long as it’s the required 10 years.

    And I would argue strongly with the idea that being in the Legislature has nothing to do with being a Court of Appeal judge. It certainly has more to do with it than being a trial lawyer, or a lawyer who drafts real estate contracts.

    Honestly, a legislator would be right at home in the Court of Appeal, but would probably be awful as a trial court judge.

  2. A series of articles in the Los Angeles Metropolitan News over the past few months has shown how political the State Bar is.  (A reminder to those of you who are not attorneys.  All lawyers must belong to the State Bar in order to practice.  It is not a typical bar association.)

    Before the State Senator’s dismal rating, the State Bar downgraded a nominee for the First District Court of Appeal (San Francisco) because she had “only” served a few years on the Alameda Superior court.  Over a decade ago, the State Bar found Janice Rogers Brown “unqualified” for the Supreme Court because she had “only” served a few years on the Court of Appeal.

    Political science has long noted that, historically, Republican Presidents tended to elevate appellate judges to the US Supreme Court.  Democratic Presidents tended to nominate persons who had not been judges before.  (Clinton’s appointments to the Supreme Court were recommended to him by Orrin Hatch, as nominees who could easily get through the confirmation process.  They are thus Republican appointments.)

    The California State Bar has adopted the Republican ideology.

    The problem with appellate courts loaded with former trial court judges is that they tend to be beholden to the courts as an institution and not see the larger picture.

    The current California Supreme Court is filled with judges who have moved up the judicial ladder.

    In the 1950’s and 1960’s, California had one of the best court systems in the United States.  Beginning with Ronald Reagan’s second term as governor, the courts began to be politicized.  This accelerated under Jerry Brown and George Deukmejian.  California now has the worst courts of the heavily populated states.  (The best is, ironically, New Jersey.)

    In addition to playing politics with judicial nominations, the State Bar just fired its head of the office of Trial Counsel, in effect the top ethics prosecutor for the State Bar.  The reason was that he had started to bring ethics charges against unethical prosecutors, which was virtually unprecedented.  Deputy District Attorneys and Deputy Attorneys General had been left alone for years and did not like having to answer for their shenanigans.

    I hope the veto sticks.  The State Bar is as corrupt as any other portion of California government.  Since California has moved up to most corrupt of the major states, it fits right in.

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