California Proposition 10, Unification of Superior, Municipal and Justice Courts (1982)

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California Proposition 10 was on the November 2, 1982 statewide general election ballot in California as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, where it was defeated.

Proposition 10, if it had passed, would have allowed the California State Legislature to authorize any of the state's 58 counties to unify its municipal and justice courts within its superior court, contingent on a majority of the county's voters approving that unification plan in an election on the question of whether to move forward with such a unification.

In counties that went ahead with a unification under Proposition 10, all the municipal court and justice court judges would have been re-defined as superior court judges.

As of July 1, 1982, there were 640 superior court judgeships, 496 municipal court judgeships, and 95 justice court judgeships in California.

In 1998, voters approved Proposition 220, a court consolidation measure.

Election results

Proposition 10
Defeatedd No4,362,76765.3%
Yes 2,314,700 34.7%

Constitutional changes

California Constitution
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Proposition 10, if it had been approved, would have amended Section 5 of Article VI of the California Constitution as follows, with new text in italics and deleted text stricken out.

SEC. 5. (a) Each county shall be divided into municipal court and justice court districts as provided by statute, but a city may not be divided into more than one district. Each municipal and justice court shall have one or more judges.
There shall be a municipal court in each district of more than 40,000 residents and a justice court in each district of 40,000 residents or less. The number of residents shall be ascertained as provided by statute.
The Legislature shall provide for the organization and prescribe the jurisdiction of municipal and justice courts. It shall prescribe for each municipal court and provide for each justice court the number, qualifications, and compensation of judges, officers, and employees.
(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of subdivision (a), any city in San Diego County may be divided into more than one municipal court or justice court district if the Legislature determines that unusual geographic conditions warrant such division.
(c) (1) Notwithstanding the provisions of subdivision (a) and (b), the Legislature may authorize a county to unify the municipal courts and justice courts within the superior court. This unification shall be made after approval by a majority vote of the electors of the county voting on the issue at an election called for that purpose by the county's board of supervisors.
(2) On the first of July in the year next following approval by the electors of such a provision, all superior court and municipal court judges then in office shall become superior court judges, and all justice court judges shall become superior court judges unless the Legislature has provided otherwise. The former municipal court and justice court judges shall retain the same balance to their terms as though they had been originally appointed or elected to the superior court. However, the Legislature may provide for the powers and duties of the former municipal and justice court judges during the balance of their term and until election to the superior court.
(3) The superior court in a unified county shall have original jurisdiction in all causes.
(4) The superior court in a unified county shall have appellate jurisdiction in the same causes as are appealable to the superior court in nonunified counties.
(5) The board of supervisors of a unified county may provide for branches of the superior court throughout the county.
(6) The Legislature shall prescribe the number and compensation of judges and court enforcement officers, and provide for the clerk and other officers and employees of the superior court in the unified county.
(7) All other provisions of this article not inconsistent with this subdivision shall apply to the superior court of such a county.

Ballot summary

Proposition 10's official ballot summary said:

"Provides Legislature may authorize a county to unify municipal and justice courts within superior court upon approval by majority vote of county electors. Upon unification, provides for municipal and, unless Legislature provides otherwise, justice court judges to become superior court judges; authorizes Legislature to provide powers and duties of former municipal and justice court judges during balance of terms; requires Legislature to prescribe number and compensation of judges and court enforcement officers and provide for clerk, other officers, and employees; establishes original and appellate jurisdiction of superior court; specifies other matters. Summary of Legislative Analyst's estimate of net state and local government fiscal impact: No impact until implemented by legislation and approval vote in county. When implemented, depending on legislative action, there would be state and/or county increased salary and retirement costs due to higher salaries of judges elevated. There could be unknown administrative costs or savings, depending on implementation. Fiscal impact could vary substantially from county to county."

Fiscal impact

The fiscal estimate provided by the California Legislative Analyst's Office said:

"By itself this measure would have no direct fiscal effect on either the state or local governments. This is because no changes in the counties' court structure could occur until the Legislature acted to authorize a unified court in a particular county and until the voters of that county approved the unification proposal. Any additional costs, savings, or revenues resulting from court unification would depend on the provisions of the authorizing legislation.
Superior, municipal, and justice court costs are funded primarily by the counties. The state provides funds to cover most of each superior court judge's salary, a portion of certain superior court's administrative costs, and the employer's contributions to the Judges' Retirement Fund (equal to 8 percent of each judge's annual salary) for superior and municipal court judges. Justice court judges generally are covered by county retirement sytems, and the costs of their retirement benefits are funded locally.
In the event the Legislature authorizes and the voters approve unification of a county's court system, the fiscal impact would be as follows:
1. Increased salary costs. Depending on legislative action, the state and/or the counties would incur additional costs as a result of elevating municipal and justice court judges to the superior court. This is due to the fact that salaries for superior court judges ($63,267 per year) are higher than salaries for either justice court judges (an average of $25,000 per year) or municipal court judges ($57,776 per year). In addition, some justice court judgeships are part time, whereas all superior court judgeships are full time.
2. Increased retirement costs. Depending on legislative action, the state and/or the county would incur additional costs due to the fact that municipal court judges who are elevated to the superior court would receive a higher salary and therefore would receive higher retirement benefits. Retirement costs for justice court judges elevated to the superior court would be higher as well.
3. Unknown administrative costs or savings. The impact of court unification on the cost of operating the courts cannot be determined in advance. It would depend on how implementation of an individual county's unification proposal affects the administrative efficiency of the court system.
The impact of this proposal on total court costs and the distribution of any resulting costs or savings between the counties and the state is not known and would depend on the specific provisions of subsequent implementing legislation. The fiscal effect could vary substantially from county to county."

Path to the ballot

See also: Amending the California Constitution

The California State Legislature voted to put Proposition 10 on the ballot via Assembly Constitutional Amendment 36 (Statutes of 1982, Resolution Chapter 67).

Votes in legislature to refer to ballot
Chamber Ayes Noes
Assembly 69 0
Senate 28 4

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