SAN FRANCISCO—In an effort to safeguard the fundamental right to vote, the California judicial branch has established a procedure for voters and others statewide to seek urgent court relief after regular business hours on the day of the primary election, Tuesday, June 5, 2012.
On Election Day, if a voter or other individual or entity concludes that immediate court action is needed to avoid irreparable harm but the issue did not arise until after superior court hours, the concerned party should call or visit the office of the local registrar of voters. The registrar will explore with the party whether election laws offer an immediate method of resolving the issue short of court intervention. If no other solution exists, the registrar will then contact court officials.
Working with Judge David Rosenberg, Presiding Judge of the Superior Court of Yolo County and Chair of the Judicial Council’s Trial Court Presiding Judges Advisory Committee, the Administrative Office of the Courts has assembled a panel of three experienced judges who have agreed to be available after hours on Election Day to hear urgent requests. Fifty-one superior courts plan to use the services of the volunteer panel judges and the Chief Justice has assigned the panel judges to those courts. The remaining seven superior courts (those of Alameda, Kern, Placer, Plumas, San Mateo, Sonoma, and Stanislaus Counties) have each designated a local judge to hear any urgent after-hours matters.
The Secretary of State’s office will direct the registrar of voters in each county to notify the AOC of any requests to submit an urgent petition for court relief after hours on Election Day. The AOC will route any such requests to either one of the judges on the panel or a local judge, as appropriate.
If a panel judge handling a matter determines that an emergency hearing is required, the proceeding will be conducted by telephone using a reserved conference line. AOC representatives will work with the county registrar to ensure that all necessary parties are in attendance for the telephone hearing and any documentary evidence is forwarded to the hearing judge.
If a local judge handles such a matter, that judge will advise the registrar and parties of the emergency hearing procedure as need arises.
The Secretary of State’s website maintains a page listing addresses and contact information for the registrars of voters in all 58 counties. Those considering seeking urgent after-hours court relief on an elections issue may also want to review rules 3.1200–3.1207 of the California Rules of Court, which describe the “ex parte” procedures that apply in such cases. Those rules are available on the California Courts website under Ex Parte Applications.