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NCJ Number: 52057 Find in a Library
Title: RIGHT TO A LEGALLY TRAINED JUDGE - GORDON V JUSTICE COURT
Journal: HARVARD CIVIL RIGHTS - CIVIL LIBERTIES LAW REVIEW  Volume:10  Issue:3  Dated:(SUMMER 1975)  Pages:739-771
Author(s): G L ROSENTHAL
Corporate Author: Harvard University
Law School
United States of America
Date Published: 1975
Page Count: 33
Sponsoring Agency: Harvard University
Cambridge, MA 02138
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: A CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT DECISION CONFIRMING A DEFENDANT'S DUE PROCESS RIGHT TO A JUDGE TRAINED IN THE LAW IS EXAMINED.
Abstract: IN GORDON V. JUSTICE COURT FOR YUBA JUDICIAL DISTRICT OF SUTTER COUNTY, THE COURT HELD UNANIMOUSLY THAT THE USE OF A NONATTORNEY (LAY) JUDGE IN ANY CRIMINAL ADJUDICATION PUNISHABLE BY IMPRISONMENT VIOLATES THE 14TH AMENDMENT'S GUARANTEE OF DUE PROCESS OF LAW. IN THIS FINDING, THE CALIFORNIA COURT DECLINED TO FOLLOW CONTRARY DECISIONS FROM OTHER JURISDICTIONS AND BECAME THE FIRST STATE HIGH COURT TO CONFIRM THE DEFENDANT'S RIGHT TO A LEGALLY TRAINED JUDGE. IF ACCEPTED ELSEWHERE, THE GORDON DECISION COULD HAVE PROFOUND EFFECTS IN THE LOWER COURTS. THE COMPETENCE OF LAWYER COURT JUDGES SHOULD INCREASE, PERHAPS LEADING TO GREATER LIKELIHOOD OF FAIR AND EFFECTIVE RESOLUTIONS OF CONSTITUTIONAL CLAIMS THAT CAN BE RAISED IN MISDEMEANOR PROSECUTIONS. A SECOND EFFECT MAY BE THAT LOWER COURT LAY JUDGES WITH JURISDICTION OVER CRIMES WILL LOSE CONSIDERABLE PORTIONS OF THEIR CRIMINAL DOCKETS. FURTHER DECREASES IN LAY COURT CASELOADS SHOULD OCCUR IF THE GORDON DOCTRINE IS APPLIED TO CLASSES OF CASES OTHER THAN CRIMES. IN ADDITION, ADHERENCE TO THE GORDON RULING WILL RAISE SERIOUS QUESTIONS FOR STATE LEGISLATURES WITH REGARD TO THE COST AND AVAILABILITY OF LEGALLY TRAINED JUDGES, AND SOME STATES MAY FIND IT NECESSARY TO RESTRUCTURE A SIGNIFICANT PART OF THEIR JUDICIAL APPARATUS. THE DUE PROCESS RATIONALE OF THE GORDON DECISION IS ANALYZED, AND THE NEED FOR A PER SE PROHIBITION AGAINST THE USE OF NONATTORNEY JUDGES IN CRIMINAL CASES (AS OPPOSED TO RELIANCE ON APPELLATE REVIEW TO DETERMINE WHETHER A DEFENDANT'S RIGHTS HAVE BEEN ABRIDGED DUE TO THE USE OF A LAY JUDGE) IS DISCUSSED. IT IS CONCLUDED THAT LAY JUDGES SUFFICIENTLY INTERFERE WITH THE DEFENDANT'S RIGHT TO A FAIR TRIAL TO INVOKE THE PROTECTIONS OF THE DUE PROCESS CLAUSE, AND THAT RELIEF SHOULD TAKE THE FORM OF A PER SE PROHIBITION. THE STATE'S INTEREST IN MAINTAINING THE LAY JUDGE SCHEME IS BALANCED AGAINST THE DEFENDANT'S INTEREST IN ELIMINATING THAT SCHEME IN ORDER TO DETERMINE THE PROPRIETY OF APPLYING THE PROHIBITION TO ALL CASES INVOLVING THE POSSIBILITY OF IMPRISONMENT. THE BALANCING ANALYSIS SUPPORTS THE REQUIREMENT OF ATTORNEY JUDGES, AT LEAST WHEN IMPRISONMENT MAY RESULT FROM PROSECUTION, AND POTENTIALLY FOR OTHER CLASSES OF CASES. THE BALANCING TEST PROVIDES A FRAMEWORK FOR ASSESSING POSSIBLE EXTENSIONS OF THE REQUIREMENT. (AUTHOR ABSTRACT MODIFIED--LKM)
Index Term(s): California; Judges; Judicial decisions; Law degrees; Professionalization; Right to Due Process; Rights of the accused; State supreme courts
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http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=52057

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