JNE panel to hold public hearing in Long Beach

The seven-member panel reviewing the Commission on Judicial Nom-inees Evaluation (JNE) will hold a public hearing on Oct. 12 at the State Bar's Annual Meeting in Long Beach.

"The scope of our inquiry is pretty broad," said James D. Ward, chair of the Judicial Nominees Evaluation Advisory Committee. "We're not closing our mind to anything."

The hearing will be held from noon to 3 p.m. in the Regency E&F room of the Hyatt Regency Long Beach. The advisory committee, which met for the first time last month in San Francisco, was appointed by bar President James Towery following Gov. Wilson's controversial appointment to the Supreme Court of Janice Rogers Brown. The JNE Commission had rated Brown "not qualified," a fact which Wilson publicly noted when he announced the nomination.

Deliberations which led to that rating ultimately were leaked to the Los Angeles Times, and critics of the JNE Commission, led by Gov. Wilson, cried foul, alleging that JNE commissioners had violated their oath of secrecy.

A three-member committee investigating the leak announced last month it was unable to ascertain the source of the Times story (see related story).

"The secrecy of the process has sparked a lot of criticism," Ward said, noting that the advisory committee will study all other aspects of the JNE process as well, including confidentiality, conflict of interest, the current rating system and even the perception of bias in the review procedures.

The public hearing in Long Beach is part of the advisory committee's efforts to obtain comment. "We are very eager to have recommendations from the public," said Ward. "We want to hear from everyone who has suggestions for better ways" for JNE commissioners to do their jobs.

However, the chair stressed that the committee is "definitely not into hearing grievances of individual cases."

Ward said he hopes the committee can complete its review within six months.

Comment may be submitted to any of the members of the JNE Advisory Committee:

Evans, Kaye and Ravel are members of the State Bar Board of Governors.