While it was hardly as controversial as the selection of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s successor, at its Sept. 22 meeting, Glendale City Council raised a few eyebrows by changing the way city judges will be selected.
Council first eliminated duties of an advisory board—and then the board itself.
Previously, the Glendale City Code stated, “The presiding officer of the city court shall be the presiding city judge who shall be appointed by the city council, after recommendation of the judicial selection advisory board,” and, “City judges shall be appointed by the city council, after recommendation of the judicial selection advisory board.”
City council voted 6-1 to remove “after recommendation of the judicial selection advisory board” for both the presiding city judge and city judges processes.
Councilman Bart Tuner was the only vote against the ordinance amending the language.
The Glendale Star asked Turner to explain his vote.
“I deeply respect and appreciate the time and talent that the members of all our advisory commissions donate to the city. As a group, the legal professionals who make up our Judicial Selection Advisory Board (JSAB) are probably the most knowledgeable in their specific subject matter out of all our commissions. Their previous work in providing the council judicial recommendations has been of superior quality,” Turner said.
“In this instance, I believe the council was proceeding outside of the standard process and in a direction that could possibly become contrary to city ordinance. I don’t feel amending the ordinance to match council desires and then also disbanding the JSAB is the appropriate solution,” he continued.
Asked about the reason for this, city attorney Michael Bailey responded, “City Council amended Chapter 13, including repealing the Judicial Selection Advisory Board.
“This action results in a clean slate for the city council to consider the diversity of practices of neighboring cities and clearly establish roles and responsibilities as they relate to the charter’s authority that the City Council is the appointing body.”
Bailey did not directly respond to a question regarding the value of the judicial board’s input.
Ana Botello, who also wrote a guest editorial on the matter (see Page 12), was a member of the board.
“I am stunned and disheartened at the decision to disband the board—my faith in government shaken,” she said.
The board was made up of judges and attorneys. The members included Roy Whitehead, Larry Sandigo, Joshua Conway, Michael Kielsky, Magdalena Osborn, Presiding Judge Elizabeth Finn, Andrew Gould and Botello.
According to minutes from the board’s January meeting, “The next reappointment for the Board to consider will be City Judge John Burkholder whose term expires Oct. 31, and Judges Finn and Delgado whose terms expire in March 2021.”
The board met again Sept. 2, with the main agenda items of, “The board will discuss and vote on their recommendation to the Mayor and City Council regarding the reappointment of John Burkholder to City Judge for a four-year term,” and, “discuss and vote to forward to the Mayor and City Council the qualified candidates for consideration as the presiding city judge.”
On Aug. 12, the board received an email from Glendale Human Resources: “Glendale City Council has requested your review and feedback on their top candidate for presiding city judge. Please … review the attached application materials for Nicholas DiPiazza.”
Botelo responded with an Aug. 17 email challenging the procedure:
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the mayor and council reviewing all applicants directly, but the way I read the ordinances it falls on the board to review all of the applicants and make the recommendations as a board. Out of an abundance of caution, I feel hesitant to make any recommendation without having met with my fellow board members.”
A month later, council disbanded the board.
“I don’t believe any of us thought council would just eliminate us instead of trying to work with us,” Botello said.
Turner, for one, valued the board’s input.
“I have always been a proponent of full transparency when conducting the public’s business. The agenda description for the proposed actions, in my opinion, fell woefully short of providing the general public a clear description of the proposals under consideration, and to the best of my knowledge, even the JSAB members had not been notified that the City Council was considering abolishing their commission,” Turner said in an email to the Star.
“Under these circumstances, and given the importance of maintaining maximum public confidence in our judicial selection process, I felt I must vote ‘No.’”
The reappointment of Burkholder and appointment of a new presiding city judge was also on the Sept. 22 agenda, but council voted to move both items to a later meeting.