Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
San Francisco Chronicle
Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A governor’s appointment of a judge who had been rated unqualified by the State Bar would have to be disclosed to the public under a proposal that California judicial leaders endorsed Tuesday.

The state Judicial Council, chaired by Chief Justice Ronald George, voted in San Francisco to support legislation that would require the bar to release negative ratings of newly appointed trial judges.

“We have this wonderful system to evaluate candidates,” Ronald Robie, a state appeals court justice in Sacramento who sponsored the proposal, said after the vote. “If it says someone’s unqualified, the public should know that the governor’s appointing them anyway.”

That would make governors more accountable for their judicial appointments and might discourage them from picking judges who receive low ratings from the bar, Robie said.

State law requires the governor to submit the names of all judicial candidates to a State Bar panel, which examines their background, questions those familiar with their work and rates them anywhere from unqualified to exceptionally well qualified.

Governors can appoint judges regardless of the assessment. Appeals court and state Supreme Court nominees have confirmation hearings before a state commission, where the bar discloses their ratings.

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