September 1, 2013
Linda Greenhouse, the New York Times’ former United States Supreme Court correspondent and current SCOTUS observer and blogger, last month asked: does Chief Justice Roberts have “Too Much Work?” Listing some of the many tasks assigned to the leader of the federal judiciary (e.g., “What was Congress thinking when it told the chief justice to choose 11 federal district judges to sit on the foreign intelligence court, as well as the three additional judges who sit to review the special court’s decisions?”), Greenhouse states the obvious: “Assuming a chief justice’s day has only 24 hours, the actual work of judging must account for just a fraction of a normal workweek.”
California’s Chief Justice is in a similar situation. Besides the demanding work of a Supreme Court justice (which in itself involves more than just deciding cases) and the additional work that comes from leading the court, the Chief Justice, as chair of the Judicial Council, heads the State’s judiciary, which is said to be the country’s largest. This is a monumental administrative task that has become all the more difficult during the current unprecedented budget crisis.
But there’s more. An incomplete list of responsibilities includes: the Chief Justice serves on the three-member Commission on Judicial Appointments, which confirms (or not) gubernatorial nominations to the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal; she assigns judges to the appellate division of each county’s superior court; she, with others, enters into the contract for publishing the official reports of court decisions; she consults with the State Bar in appointing a task force to analyze the funding of nonprofit legal services organizations; and she appoints members or designees to numerous Judicial Council advisory committees, the Task Force on Trial Court Employees, the Council on Mentally Ill Offenders, the The Task Force on Court Facilities, the Crime Laboratory Review Task Force, and the California Child Welfare Council. And, of course, don’t forget that the Chief Justice must designate a representative to the advisory panel that helps the State Librarian choose the recipient of the California State Library Gold Medal for Excellence in the Humanities and Science.
It’s possible that the Chief Justice will take a break from work on Labor Day, but don’t bet on it.