California Judges Association Hires New Executive Director


California Judges Associationpic

California Judges Association

A former judge of the Alameda County Superior Court of the state of California, Paul Seeman earned his juris doctor from the University of California, Berkeley. An active member of the judiciary in policy matters, Paul Seeman held memberships in several legal groups and organizations, including the California Judges Association.

Founded in 1929, the California Judges Association brings together the judiciary of California in common cause. The nonprofit association’s membership is made up of judges, commissioners, and former judges from the state’s Superior Courts, Courts of Appeal, and State Bar Courts, and works to ensure fair and impartial justice is served throughout the state.

The California Judges Association recently announced the hiring of a new executive director and CEO of the association. On February 1, 2018, Nicole Virga Bautista took over for former executive director Stan Bissey, who left to take a leadership position with the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Ms. Bautista has an extensive nonprofit management background, including executive leadership experience with the California Association of Mortgage Professionals. A graduate of the University of California, Davis, she plans to leverage her experience in membership, education, and government affairs to lead new initiatives for the association.


16,000 Donors, Half of All Donations

A study by the Bipartisan Policy Center found that more than 3.2 million Americans contributed to federal candidates in the 2016 elections, but fewer than 16,000 of them provided half the total donations. Super PACs spent $1.1 billion in the 2016 elections, nearly 17 times more than such independent political committees put into federal races in 2010, the first year they came into existence, the report found.

“The system has completely transformed,” said Robert Bauer, a Democratic election law attorney who authored the report with GOP campaign-finance lawyer Benjamin Ginsberg and Stanford Law School professor Nathaniel Persily.

The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision did not result in the expected wave of independent corporate political spending. In 2012, corporations spent about $75 million from their treasuries on federal elections, roughly 1 percent of the overall spending that cycle, according to the report. In 2016, just 10 companies made independent expenditures, spending “relatively minuscule amounts,” possibly because corporations prefer lobbying on public policy to taking public political stances that may anger shareholders or customers.

The more significant change is that wealthy individuals and corporate leaders have made the largest donations to super PACs, accounting for 64 percent of the contributions to such groups in recent elections.

Voting Rights Restoration 2018

In an article in the New York Law Journal, Jerry Goldfeder and Myrna Pérez discuss recent progress on voting rights restoration for citizens with criminal records, and look forward to prospects for change in 2018. While 4.7 million Americans are still unable to participate fully in civic life because of restrictive voting rights restoration laws, Goldfeder and Perez point to a number of promising signs:

  • In Alabama, the state legislature has passed the “Definition of Moral Turpitude Act” to finally comply with Chapman v. Gooden and define the term to eliminate the discretion that local elected officials used to disenfranchise voters. That case challenged the Alabama Secretary of State’s practice of denying voter registration to all citizens with felony convictions, despite state law being limited to crimes of “moral turpitude,” a vague term that had been problematic for decades. After the trial court in Gooden directed the state to develop a workable definition, they amended their practice in order to avoid further litigation, but it took 10 years, until this past May, for a clarifying law to be passed.
  • In New Jersey Gov.-elect Phil Murphy has come out strongly in favor of expanding access to voting rights for persons with criminal convictions.
  • In Florida, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition has gathered more than 900,000 signatures on a petition to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would restore voting rights to almost all of the 1.5 million people in that state who have completed their sentences.
  • The Democracy Restoration Act has been introduced in every Congress since 2008. The Act would restore voting rights in federal elections to all Americans with a past conviction who are living in the community, including those released from prison and probationers who are never incarcerated, affecting about 4.7 million people. New Alabama Senator Doug Jones, who file an amicus brief in the Chapman case, has publicly stated his support for this Act.



Membership in the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States

Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States pic

Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States

A legal professional for more than three decades, Paul Seeman has served as an attorney and deputy county counsel, as well as a judge for the Alameda County Superior Court in California. In addition to his bench service, he served as a member of the Judicial Council Task Force for Criminal Justice Collaboration on Mental Health Issues. As an attorney, Paul Seeman was also a member of the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States.

There are a number of reasons why a litigator would seek admission to the Bar of the Supreme Court. Membership has a pragmatic component since in almost every case court rules dictate that each party to a case being argued in court must be represented by a member of the Supreme Court Bar in good standing.

Additional perks come with bar membership, as well. For the general public, attending a session of open court requires standing in line for a good number of hours before the 10 a.m. arguments commence. Bar members, however, have their own special section of the courtroom in which they are able to sit. Seating is limited to those who arrive first, but the line for bar members is typically much shorter than the one for the general public.