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Racial Injustice and the Abolition of Justice Courts in Monterey County

Kousser, J. Morgan (2000) Racial Injustice and the Abolition of Justice Courts in Monterey County. . (Unpublished)

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Broadly speaking, there are three different, conflicting stories that one might tell about the consolidation of the courts of Monterey county from 1967 through 1983. The first, the State’s story, outlined in Section II of this report, is a simple one of the inevitable imposition of rationality on a chaotic judicial system by the modernizing, race-neutral State of California. The State Judicial Council1 and the legislature were the actors, and they acted in the best interests of all, including minority ethnic groups, whom they have always zealously protected. In any event, judges are what my collegiate constitutional law professor called “the vestal virgins of the Constitution,” and any move to make them responsive to the electorate should be resisted. The second story, detailed in Section III, moves down a notch, substituting local Monterey County officials and the County Bar Association for the State’s characters as the principal actors. It is more complicated, at least recognizing that there was localist, parochial opposition that delayed the consolidation for many years. No doubt dwellers in the small towns and rural areas were sincere in their desire for local control and in their efforts to avoid driving 75 miles or more to contest traffic tickets or charges of petty crimes, but in the end, in this second tale, they realized that it was less expensive and more efficient to centralize all judicial functions in Salinas and Monterey. The County story also recognizes the importance of the personal self-interest of judges, who pressed at times for eliminating the justice courts and at other times, for keeping them. But in the County’s, as well as the State’s version of history, race played no role. The third story discounts the first as a convenient fiction and borrows elements from the second story, but puts the events into the long and continuing local history of harsh racial and ethnic discrimination in Monterey County, a history that the first two stories studiously ignore. It points as well to the county’s history of using electoral rules and structures to solidify control by those who drafted the rules. The history of discrimination takes up part IV of the report. Part V summarizes the evidence for the three hypotheses about the motivation of the actors who eliminated Monterey County’s justice courts.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Report)
Additional Information:An unpublished report for Lopez v. Monterey County.
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20130913-160303883
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:41334
Deposited By: SWORD User
Deposited On:17 Sep 2013 21:38
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 05:48

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