The California Judicial Council, governing body of the state's judicial branch, today issued for comment a draft of proposed rules that would for the first time open meetings of its standing committees and other advisory bodies to public attendance. The Council, whose own meetings are already presumed open, sees today's release as the first of two stages to solicit comments from various "stakeholders," including the press, with a greater than average interest in the operation of the state court system. Closed sessions would be authorized for significantly more topics than permitted in the Brown Act—the open meeting law for local government bodies—but that is true also of the Bagley-Keene Act, which applies to a wide variety of the state's executive branch regulatory bodies, which have specialized jurisdictions calling for types of confidential discussion not encountered in local government. The principal task of court-watchers in filing comments is likely to be arguing for far greater precision in narrowing such language as "personnel" discussion as a basis for excluding the public. Comments for this round are sought by next Wednesday, November 20 at 5 p.m., and may be emailed or submitted online.
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About the Author: Terry Francke, General Counsel
Terry Francke has a 35-year history of helping journalists, citizens and public officials understand and use their First Amendment and open government rights. With CalAware, Francke has authored comprehensive and authoritative guidebooks to California law on access to government meetings and public records and the news gathering and publication rights of journalists. Focusing on these issues in public forum law, he supervises CalAware's legislative and litigation initiatives; conducts workshops on legal compliance; helps design public records audits; supports local sunshine ordinance drafting efforts; writes CalAware Today, a blog on current developments and proposals in the law and best practices; and answers countless queries by phone and e-mail from citizens, journalists, public officials and employees, and lawyers.
Francke previously served 14 years as executive director and general counsel to the California First Amendment Coalition, after a 10-year post as legal counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association. He has served as an advisory panel member to the National Center on Courts and the Media; taught journalism law at the Department of Communication at Stanford University; and served as an expert contributor to the 1994 major revisions to the Ralph M. Brown Act and the 2004 ballot proposition making open government a basic right of citizens under the California Constitution.
Francke is a 1967 graduate of the University of Notre Dame and a 1979 graduate of McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific. Prior to his legal career, Francke worked as a weekly newspaper editor and in military and local government public affairs positions.