Posted by: thepinetree on 05/12/2014 10:02 AM
Updated by: thepinetree on 06/04/2014 12:38 AM
Expires: 01/01/2019 12:00 AM
The Hon. Hugh K. Swift Superior Court Judge Calaveras County Clearing Up Some Issues
Calaveras County, CA...Over the last few months, I have enjoyed talking to different groups and community organizations regarding our court system in Calaveras County. Many people have questions about judges and how our court is organized and operated. Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions.....
Click Above To Visit The Candidate's Website. Paid for by Committee to Elect Hugh Swift Superior Court Judge 2014
FPPC # 1362930
“You were appointed. How do judges get appointed?”
After completing an application, anyone seeking a judicial appointment must be thoroughly evaluated by a non-partisan agency of the State Bar of California. The Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation (JNE Commission) provides independent, comprehensive, accurate and fair evaluations before recommending a judicial appointment. By state law the Governor cannot appoint a judge without the commission’s recommendation, thus assuring that the governor appoints only qualified judges.
“How does the evaluation process work?”
The JNE Commission uses criteria such as impartiality, broad legal experience, intellectual capacity, community respect, commitment to equal justice and judicial temperament to evaluate nominees. The Commission sends questionnaires to all of the attorneys and judges listed in the application, at least 60 professional references, and to randomly selected members of the local legal community. After receiving responses to the questionnaires, the Commission interviews the applicant.
Only appointed judges undergo an independent evaluation of their qualifications..
“Are judges usually appointed or elected?”
The majority of the 1,700 judges in California were initially appointed. The other judge in Calaveras County, Judge Martin, was appointed in 1995.i
“Why hasn’t there been a judicial election in Calaveras County for almost 20 years?”
Superior Court judges are elected to six year terms. We have not had an election since 1996 because no one ever challenged Judge Martin or Judge Mewhinney when their terms expired.
Once appointed, judges aren’t often challenged for election. For example, in Los Angeles County there are over 600 judges. However, there is only one contested judicial election involving a sitting judge in Los Angeles this year. Statewide only 15 sitting judges are being challenged for election in 2014.
"What percentage of cases filed in Calaveras County are criminal cases?"
Criminal cases include felonies, misdemeanors and infracations. On average, 5% of the cases filed each year are felonies and 15% are misdemeanors. Approximately 55% of the cases filed each year are traffic infractions.
Although criminal cases represent 75% of filings, they only account for about one-third of the court’s judicial workload. Civil, family law, juvenile, probate cases make up the bulk of the remaining two-thirds of the judicial workload.
“I heard that 60% of the cases heard in Department Two last week were criminal cases. Is that true?.
In terms of the number of hearings scheduled, that might be true. However, I did not spend 60% of my time on those criminal cases. Not all cases or hearings are created equal. I can spend several hours preparing for 2 or 3 hearings in civil law and motions cases. In contrast, I can hear 15 traffic arraignments in one hour, with very little preparation time needed. Reliance on raw statistics without any analysis can be very misleading.
"Is Department One the criminal court? “Is Department Two the civil and family law court?”
Not necessarily. The presiding judge of a court assigns cases to judges and not departments. I am currently assigned to hear criminal (primarily infractions), civil, family law, probate and domestic violence cases.
The presiding judge does not need the permission of the governor, board of supervisors, or anyone else to make changes in how cases are assigned.
“Who is the presiding judge now?”
Judge Martin is currently the presiding judge.
“What are the other duties of the presiding judge?”
The presiding judge is responsible for, among other things, leading the court, allocating resources in a manner that promotes access to justice, increasing efficiency in court operations and enhancing service to the public.
Because Judge Martin is retiring at the end of the year, it is important to elect someone with experience in court operations and judicial administration who can carry out these duties. .
“Who will the presiding judge when Judge Martin retires at the end of the year?”
If I am elected, I will be the presiding judge based on my experience and seniority. If I am not elected, and the two new judges cannot agree who should be the presiding judge, there will be a coin flip or other random selection method used.