Rose Bird BACK

Californians' Perceptions of the Chief Justice

Pro   Con

Chief Justice Bird is a thoughtful, thorough jurist, and a careful reading of her opinions demonstrates her command of legal and constitutional principles.1 Chief Justice Bird has not had a fair opportunity to answer her critics because the Judicial Canons of Ethics prevent her from doing so.2


Chief Justice Bird's decisions are too often based on personal bias and inconsistent with legal precedent.3 Chief Justice Bird does not show an adequate sense of restraint in reading her political views into the statutes and the constitution.4 The Chief Justice has also been inaccessible to the press.5

AMA Commentary

Opinions on the quality of Chief Justice Bird's decision-making differ substantially. Lawrence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard, called Bird's rulings "among the most scholarly, thoughtful, intelligent opinions written by any appellate judge in the country."6 Phillip Johnson, a criminal law professor at UC Berkeley, said, "...Chief Justice Bird in particular has endorsed every liberal cause and frequently [has] written individual opinions urging the Court to go still further."7

In reference to the claim that Chief Justice Bird has been inaccessible to the press, the current California Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 3.6, states:

"A judge should abstain from public comment about a pending or impending proceeding in any court and should require similar abstention on the part of court personnel subject to his direction or control."8

Canon 7 of the current American Bar Association Code of Judicial Conduct states:

"A candidate, including an incumbent judge, for a judicial office...should not...announce his views on disputed legal or political issues..."9

Canon 7.3 of the current California Code of Judicial Conduct states:

"An incumbent judge who is a candidate for retention or re-election to office without a competing candidate, and whose candidacy has drawn active opposition, may campaign in response thereto; may obtain publicly stated support; and in the manner provided in subsection B(2) may obtain campaign funds."10

1 Murray, Anthony, introductory synopsis, p. 2, Committee to Conserve the Courts, "Let the Record Reflect," campaign literature.
2 Bergholz, Richard, "An Historic Battle For Control of the Court," California Journal, March 1985, p. 104.
3 Crime Victims for Court Reform, "Fact Sheet on Chief Justice Rose Bird," pp. 1-2.
4 Moore, Michael, "Rose Bird Should Go," editorial in Los Angeles Times, July 31, 1985, II:p. 5.
5 Californians to Defeat Rose Bird, campaign literature, I:C.
6 Tribe, Laurence, quoted in "Rose Bird," L.A. Weekly, May 30, 1086, p. 21.
7 Johnson, Phillip, "The Court on Trial," The Supreme Court Poject: 1985, p. 2.
8 Canon 3.6, California Code of Judicial Conduct, from California Rules of Court, West Publishing Co., St. Paul, MN, p. 434.
9 Canon 7, American Bar Association Code of Judicial Conduct, from Rotunda, Donald, Professional Responsibility, West Publishing Co., St. Paul, MN, 1984, pp. 402-403.
10 California Rules of Court, California Code of Judicial Conduct, op. cit., p. 440.