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Opposition to Justice Bird

February 08, 1985

We believe no public official should be exempt from public scrutiny.

We therefore adamantly disagree with Gerald Uelmen who wrote (Editorial Pages, Jan. 30) that to oppose confirmation of Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird "Politicizes the court." He believes that Supreme Court justices should enjoy a lifetime immunity from public examination. This notion is particularly anti-democratic.

The justices of the California Supreme Court are not Civil Service employees. They are elected by the people of the state. It is that accountability that Uelmen finds unacceptable.

The California District Attorneys Assn. has followed the decisions from the Supreme Court for years. We have done so as citizens and prosecutors with a public trust. We have grown increasingly alarmed at the decisions of the Bird Court. These decisions seem to be shaped by biased judgments rather than arrived at by careful legal analysis. How else does one explain that Bird has voted to reverse every death penalty case she has heard?

To liken Bird's role in a confirmation campaign to a tragedy by Aeschylus is laughable. It makes her a figure floating far away from the role she actually plays: a public official, who like any other public figure, should be held accountable to the people of California. Why are the supporters of Bird so eager to deny the right of citizens to scrutinize and pass judgment upon the justices of the court? After all, this right is set out explicitly in our state Constitution.

It is only with the greatest reluctance that our association polled its membership about Bird and other members of the court who will be before the voters in 1986. We have never done so before. But, we would be remiss if we did not undertake to lay all information about Bird and other justices before our board of directors for a decision about the campaign in 1986.

Our board will be meeting on Feb. 28 to consider whether or not to support the confirmation of these justices.

Uelmen's belief to the contrary, our association is acting on its own on the question of confirmation. We have taken no part as an organization in the efforts of any other groups. Our decision will be ours alone, based on the record of Bird and the four other justices who face confirmation.

GREGORY THOMPSON

Executive Director

California District

Attorneys Assn.

Sacramento

As one who was very recently a law student, I was surprised to see a law professor with the credentials of Gerald Uelmen sign his name to an article that so completely misidentified the issue.

Uelmen's premise is that the coming drive to reject Chief Justice Bird will "politicize" the judiciary. In truth, the presence of Bird and the other liberal justices has already had a damaging politicizing effect upon the jurisprudence of this state.

With a series of poorly reasoned, misguided, result-oriented decisions pervading virtually every area of the law, the current court has strayed from the example set by former Chief Justice Traynor and others who once made California's law an example for the rest of the nation.

I advance the cautious hope that the leaders of the drive will avoid the shrill rhetoric that so often marks efforts of this type, and instead allow the voters ample opportunity to reflect on the woefully deficient record of Bird and the current majority of the Supreme Court.

TIMOTHY B. TAYLOR

Los Angeles

I would like to comment on Uelmen's proposal of lifetime appointments to the California judiciary as a means to end the politicizing of our courts.

The people of this state expect and demand a system of laws and orderly justice as a means to protect themselves against criminals who prey upon society. What the distinguished law professor and so many other legal scholars fail to grasp is that the people who will vote against Rose Bird are not a bunch of uneducated rednecks; they simply want to be protected by the courts, nothing else.

RON LESOVSKY

Santa Ana

Uelmen suggests the electorate consider lifetime appointment of state as well as federal judges as a good thing.

There are significant dangers, in my opinion, in lifetime appointments. You can have an entrenched, possibly corrupt cadre of jurists, who are in there for life, with no way to remove them except the costly and long process of impeachment.

Better to have recourse at the polls. The political process, while muddy and distasteful to some, is a unique opportunity to test the waters, for issues to be restated and refined, for credentials to be publicized and performances evaluated. It is invaluable.

We would lose all this in lifetime appointments and I for one am afraid of the power this gives governors, Presidents and other officials. I trust the power of the people to make the best judgment.

PATRICIA M. REIN

Lomita

Uelmen's article may describe correctly the intent of the anti-Bird groups to get her to resign; however, I feel it is incorrect to describe that as politicizing the judiciary.

Chief Justice Bird, with the concurrence (in most cases) of a majority of the California Supreme Court, has politicized the judiciary by (1) delaying publication of controversial decisions until after her reelection, (2) removing two initiatives from the ballot on state law grounds to prevent federal court review, even though there were substantial federal questions, (3) disapproving death sentences on the narrowest possible grounds so that a single death sentence can be retried until the state gives up, and (4) depublishing opinions of lower courts to prevent any organized determination of what the law in California really is.

Any of these, individually, would be grounds for (at least) censure. The organized anti-Bird campaigns may disapprove of her on political grounds; I disapprove on ethical grounds.

ARTHUR L. RUBIN

Los Angeles

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