Centennial Celebration Keynote Speech (April 10, 2005)

CALIFORNIA COURTS OF APPEAL
100TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION DINNER
KEYNOTE REMARKS
BY ABA PRESIDENT ROBERT GREY
APRIL 10, 2005
MILLENNIUM BILTMORE HOTEL, LOS ANGELES

I'M HONORED TO BE HERE, TO SHARE IN THE CALIFORNIA COURTS OF APPEAL CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION.

IT IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO LOOK BACK OVER THE HISTORY OF CALIFORNIA'S COURTS, WHICH SPAN NEARLY THE HISTORY OF THE STATE. AND IT'S AN OPPORTUNITY TO LOOK FORWARD, TO GAUGE WHERE THE COURTS—HERE IN CALIFORNIA; AND ELSEWHERE, THROUGHOUT THE NATION—ARE HEADED.

BECAUSE IT SEEMS THAT THE UNITED STATES IS AT A WATERSHED MOMENT WHEN IT COMES TO OUR JUDICIARY. THE LAST SEVERAL WEEKS HAVE BEEN CHALLENGING, DIFFICULT TIMES FOR JUDGES.

THE CLAMOR RISING IN SOME QUARTERS FOR RETRIBUTIVE ACTION AGAINST JUDGES IN THE WAKE OF THE TERRI SCHIAVO CASE, AND THE DRACONIAN STANCE AGAINST THE JUDICIARY OF SOME OF OUR COUNTRY'S LAWMAKERS, IS DANGEROUS.

NOT ALL POLITICIANS HAVE INDULGED IN SUCH INAPPROPRIATE RHETORIC. MANY, INCLUDING VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY, HAVE SPOKEN UP AGAINST THE VERBAL ASSAULTS LOBBIED BY SOME IN CONGRESS AGAINST JUDGES.

AS JUDGES AND LAWYERS, I KNOW YOU SHARE MY CONCERN OVER THE PUBLIC'S MISUNDERSTANDING OF THE JUDICIARY'S ROLE AND THE POLITICALLY MOTIVATED CRITICISM OF THE JUDICIARY STEMMING FROM THE SCHIAVO CASE. AMID THE ESCALATING RHETORIC, CAREFUL ANALYSIS, THOUGHTFUL LEADERSHIP AND MEASURED RESPONSE ARE NEEDED.

REGARDLESS OF HOW ONE FEELS ABOUT THE SPECIFIC CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE SCHIAVO—OR ANY—SITUATION, THE ROLE OF THE JUDICIARY IS CLEAR. FEDERAL AND STATE JUDGES ARE CHARGED WITH WEIGHING THE FACTS OF A CASE AND FOLLOWING THE REMEDIES SET FORTH IN THE LAW, RESPONSIBILITIES THEY CARRY OUT VALIANTLY AND WITH GREAT DIGNITY AND SENSITIVITY.

THE AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION HAS LONG BEEN CONCERNED WITH THE INDEPENDENCE OF OUR JUDICIARY. GOAL XI OF THE ABA IS "TO PRESERVE THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION AND THE JUDICIARY AS FUNDAMENTAL TO A FREE SOCIETY." JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE EXISTS FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE PEOPLE, NOT FOR THE PERSONAL BENEFIT OF JUDGES OR THE LAWYERS WHO APPEAR BEFORE THEM.

AS SET FORT IN ARTICLE III, SECTION 1 OF THE CONSTITUTION, THE FEDERAL JUDICIARY IS ESTABLISHED AS AN INDEPENDENT BRANCH OF GOVERNMENT AND GUARANTEES FEDERAL JUDGES LIFE TENURE DURING GOOD BEHAVIOR AND AN UNDIMINISHED SALARY. THESE GUARANTEES MAKE IT POSSIBLE FOR A JUDGE TO PROTECT AND ENFORCE INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS—EVEN WHEN DOING SO IS CONTRARY TO POPULAR OPINION—AND FOR THE JUDICIAL BRANCH TO CARRY OUT ITS ROLE IN THE SYSTEM OF CHECKS AND BALANCES SO ARTFULLY DEVISED BY OUR NATION'S FOUNDERS.

BUT INDEPENDENCE IS IMPOSSIBLE WITHOUT SECURITY. AND SO WE MUST DO EVERYTHING IN OUR POWER TO MAKE SURE OUR JUDGES, OUR COURT PERSONNEL AND OUR COURTS ARE SAFE. AS A NATION, WE WERE PAINFULLY REMINDED OF THIS IMPERATIVE WHEN JUDGES AND COURTHOUSES ACROSS THE COUNTRY WERE TARGETED.

ONE SIMPLE MEASURE TO PROTECT OUR JUDGES IS TO PROTECT THEIR PERSONAL INFORMATION—INFORMATION THAT IN TODAY'S WORLD IS EASILY OBTAINABLE FROM FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE DOCUMENTS. THE ABA URGES CONGRESS TO PERMANENTLY EXTEND THE LAW THAT NOW ALLOWS SUCH INFORMATION TO BE REMOVED FROM THE FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE FORMS OF FEDERAL JUDGES—THAT LAW IS SCHEDULED TO EXPIRE THIS DECEMBER. THE ABA JOINT COMMISSION TO EVALUATE THE MODEL CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT, WHICH PARTNERS THE ASSOCIATION'S STANDING COMMITTEE ON JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE WITH THE STANDING COMMITTEE ON ETHICS AND RESPONSIBILITY ON REVISING THE MODEL CODE, IS ALSO EXAMINING THE ISSUE OF DISCLOSURE.

FUNDING ISSUES THREATEN COURTS. WE MUST PROVIDE OUR COURTS WITH THE MEANS TO ENSURE SECURITY. JUST LAST MONTH, CHIEF JUSTICE GEORGE SOUGHT SUPPORT FOR A CALIFORNIA MEASURE THAT WOULD PROVIDE FUNDING FOR THE REPAIR AND RENOVATION OF MANY OF THE STATE'S COURTS. AS CHIEF JUSTICE GEORGE SO RIGHTLY SAID, COURTHOUSES MUST BE SAFE HARBORS.

I SAY, WE MUST STOP DRAGGING OUR FEET AND ENGAGE IN A WHOLESALE EXAMINATION OF THE ADEQUACY OF COURT SECURITY AT BOTH THE STATE AND FEDERAL LEVEL. SECURITY MUST NOT BE SACRIFICED TO ACHIEVE ECONOMIES—"BE NOT PENNY-WISE BUT POUND FOOLISH" HAS RARELY HAD SUCH GRAVITY.

LATER THIS MONTH, THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR STATE COURTS SUMMIT ON COURT SAFETY AND SECURITY WILL CONVENE. I'VE ASKED THE JUSTICE CENTER COORDINATING COMMITTEE TO TAKE THE LEAD IN ANALYZING SECURITY ISSUES AND IN DEVELOPING RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ACTIONS THAT THE ABA COULD TAKE TO ADDRESS THE PROBLEMS.

BUT WE MUST ADDRESS THE CURRENT ATMOSPHERE IN WHICH OUR COURTS OPERATE—WHETHER STATE OR FEDERAL—AND WHAT CAN ONLY BE CALLED A DECLINE IN CIVILITY AND RESPECT TOWARD OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM. OUR WORSENING ATMOSPHERE IS AS DEADLY A WEAPON AGAINST AN INDEPENDENT JUDICIARY AS IS ANY INDIVIDUAL ASSAILANT, AND CARRIES WITH IT THE POTENTIAL TO DO GREATER HARM BECAUSE IT USES STEALTH, NOT BLUNT FORCE, TO ACHIEVE ITS GOALS.

IT EATS AWAY AT AND ALTERS THE PUBLIC'S PERCEPTION OF JUDGES AND THE JUSTICE SYSTEM UNTIL FINALLY THE JUDICIARY IS NEITHER UNDERSTOOD NOR RESPECTED.

IN THIS CULTURE, LEGITIMATE SKEPTICISM AND RIGOROUS CRITICISM ARE REPLACED BY CYNICISM. TOO OFTEN JUDGES ARE CHARACTERIZED AS POLITICAL TOOLS AND THE JUSTICE SYSTEM MERELY AN OFFSHOOT OF POLITICS, AND NOT THE INDEPENDENT LEG OF OUR DEMOCRACY THAT THEY ARE.

MAINTAINING PUBLIC CONFIDENCE IN THE JUDICIARY DEPENDS UPON CONGRESS AND THE COURTS INTERACTING WITH RESTRAINT AND COMMON PURPOSE.

OUR NATIONAL RHETORIC AND, SADLY, SOME OF OUR GOVERNMENT'S ACTIONS HAVE COMBINED TO CREATE AN UNSAVORY "US VS. THEM" ATTITUDE TOWARD OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM.

WE CAN SEE IT IN EFFORTS TO STRIP THE COURTS OF THEIR RIGHT TO EVEN HEAR CONTROVERSIAL CASES, OR IN STATE ELECTION CAMPAIGNS WHICH TARGET JUDGES WHO MADE UNPOPULAR DECISIONS OR WHICH SEEK TO ENSURE PARTICULAR OUTCOMES IN FUTURE CASES.

AND WE CAN HEAR IT IN THE HARSH VERBAL ASSAULTS ON JUDGES ON THE AIRWAYS OVER THEIR DECISIONS-- THE DIN OVER THE SCHIAVO CASE IS ONLY THE MOST RECENT EXAMPLE.

THE ABA IS STEADFAST IN ITS OPPOSITION TO THESE ACTIONS.

WITHOUT OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM, WITHOUT JURORS, WITHOUT OUR JUDGES, THE MUCH-TOUTED BUT LITTLE UNDERSTOOD ORGANIZATIONAL PRINCIPLE OF OUR DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT—SEPARATION OF POWERS—COULD NOT EXIST. AN INDEPENDENT JUDICIARY—ONE FREE OF INTIMIDATION AND MANIPULATION—IS ESSENTIAL TO OUR GOVERNMENT OF SEPARATE BUT EQUAL BRANCHES, WHERE COOPERATION AND RESPECT AMONG THE BRANCHES IS VITAL.

IN ALL OF OUR ENDEAVORS, ABOVE ALL ELSE, WE MUST PROTECT SAFE ACCESS TO THE COURTS AND OUR LEGAL SYSTEM FOR LITIGANTS AND THE PUBLIC. WE MUST NOT ALLOW THOSE AMONG US WHO WOULD DO HARM, IN ANY FORM, TO DESTROY THE VERY FREEDOMS OUR LEGAL SYSTEM IS ENTRUSTED TO PROTECT.

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TONIGHT, AS WE CELEBRATE 100 YEARS OF APPEALS COURTS IN CALIFORNIA, WE CELEBRATE THE JUDICIARY AND ITS ROLE IN OUR SOCIETY.

WE CELEBRATE A CENTURY OF JUDGES PERFORMING THEIR DUTIES--

CAREFULLY SCRUTINIZING THE CASES BEFORE THEM, TO UPHOLD THE LAW. THEIR WORK, THEIR PRESENCE, STANDS FOR EVERY CITIZEN AND FOR OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM, WHICH PROTECTS THE LEAST OF US AND ASSURES US THAT PRINCIPLES, NOT PREJUDICE, SHAPE AND GOVERN OUR LIVES.

DECISIONS TAKEN BY THESE COURTS HAVE AND WILL CONTINUE TO TOUCH ON ALL ASPECTS OF CALIFORNIANS' LIVES, AND WILL MARK PATHS FOR THE COUNTRY TO FOLLOW.

A SMALL SURVEY SHOWS CASES HANDLED BY THE CALIFORNIA COURTS OF APPEAL REFLECT

  • THE INTERSECTION OF INTERNET USE, "SPAM" MESSAGES AND INTERSTATE COMMERCE;
  • AFFORDABLE HOUSING
  • BUSING
  • REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS
  • ALLOCATION OF NATURAL RESOURCES

TO NAME ONLY A FEW.

THESES DECISIONS SHAPE AND SUPPORT CALIFORNIA'S COMMUNITIES BECAUSE THEY DEAL WITH THE FULL CIRCLE OF LIFE—ISSUES AFFECTING BIRTH, BUSINESS, HEALTH, HEARTH AND HOME.

AND TRULY, THAT IS WHAT OUR COURTS DO: SHAPE AND SUPPORT OUR COMMUNITIES. IN CALIFORNIA, AND THROUGHOUT OUT COUNTRY, JUDGES ARE THE DEDICATED PUBLIC SERVANTS WHO SERVE AS IMPARTIAL ARBITERS IN DIFFICULT, OFTENTIMES EMOTIONALLY TRYING, CASES.

HAMLET FAMOUSLY ASKED HIMSELF,

WHETHER 'TIS NOBLER IN THE MIND TO SUFFER

THE SLINGS AND ARROWS OF OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE,

OR TO TAKE ARMS AGAINST A SEA OF TROUBLES,

AND BY OPPOSING THEM, END THEM?

OUR JUDICIARY DESERVES OUR PRAISE AND RESPECT; LET US STAND FOR THE JUDICIARY AND RAISE OUR VOICES—WHICH ARE MIGHTIER THAN ARMS—IN ITS SUPPORT, TO DEFY THE SLINGS AND ARROWS OF OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE BEING METED OUT AGAINST IT IN OUR CURRENT CLIMATE.

THANK YOU.

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