90 Days In The Hole

What’s 90 days?

Two well respected California judges are in hot water over committing perjury. Turns out that the Krazy Kalifornians have a law that judges have to sign an affidavit to get their paycheck. In the affidavit they have to aver that they have no cases over 90 days old since the case was submitted to them. Humboldt County, the aggreived complaintant, is apparently overloaded with cases and these two judges, who most acknowledge are hard working, respected judges, are swamped, or so they say. Swamped or not, they had to sign an affidavit to get their paycheck. Naturally, it is alleged that they were behind more than 90 days on some decision and thus lied in order to get paid.

90 Day Rule 2Now that, to me, is a cool law. Too bad we don’t hold all government officials to it. Not just the 90 day rule, but that every official did their constitutional job before they could get paid.

Under this law, county officials who wrongly deny a citizen a firearms business license wouldn’t get paid until they do the right thing. Let’s say the judge ruled the county was wrong to deny the license, how about revocation of pay for the period of time the county wronged the citizen? Sort of a fine, like pro sports imposes on players for flagrant fouls.

What if city councils had to make rezoning decisions in a reasonable period of time? No more continuing the hearing to get more input. If it was property scheduled and heard, then rule. Correctly too, or lose your pay.

Does a government or their highway contractor have to be on schedule in order to get paid? I first heard that Highway 96 was getting widened in 1994. 22 years later, it’s getting close to being done. Yet no one missed a paycheck.

On the bigger stage, what if legislators had to follow this law? Yea or nay on important issues within 90 days? What legislator could sign an affidavit saying they have complied with their constitutional duty that expeditiously?

As district attorney, I had a 90 day window to indict somebody who was incarcerated or they were granted a bond, by operation of law. But once indicted, the case could linger for years. Certainly I tried not to let that happen, but across the state it is routine for criminal cases to take several years to get to trial. Why does the court clerk, judge, district attorney or the public defender (if involved) get paid for that sort of inaction?

State attorney generals and capital defenders? Death penalty cases take 20 years on average, yet they draw a nice salary.

The FBI? They’ve been investigating Hillary’s emails forever. Can’t somebody just make a decision? But they all get paid.

Federal court judges? The border fight between Georgia and Tennessee has been pending for years. The water war between Georgia, Alabama and Florida? Years.

In the non-governmental world, decisions are made quickly because the market demands it. You can’t sit on your hands because your competitor is moving quickly. Government doesn’t have that competition and absent withholding payment for non-performance, we can’t make the government move any faster. We’ve come to accept that because government is so big, cumbersome and non-caring, we have given up expecting better.

Think about it. When you get good service from the government, it is somewhat surprising because bad service is expected. Our government no longer serves us, we are enslaved to it. We get too much of our daily bread from the government to reign it in. And that is why we are in the mess we are in.

Kelly Burke, master attorney, former district attorney and magistrate judge, is engaged in private practice. He writes about the law, rock’n’roll and politics. These articles are not designed to give legal advice, but are designed to inform the public about how the law affects their daily lives. Contact Kelly at kelly@burkelasseterllc.com to comment on this article or suggest articles that you’d like to see and visit his website at www.kellyrburke.com to view prior columns.

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