April 28, 2014

Federal Court for Northern California Creates Ombuds Program

The United States District Court for the Northern District of California has unveiled an Ombudsperson Program for attorneys to raise issues about the Court or individual judges. Retired Judges Fern M. Smith and James P. Kleinberg have volunteered to serve as the Court’s Ombudspersons.  The program will be reviewed after two years.

According to a new website for the program,
The Ombudsperson Program provides an informal and confidential process for addressing concerns members of the NDCA Bar may have regarding the judges of the Court. The Ombudsperson Program does not substitute for any other established forum for submitting formal or informal complaints. Attorneys are still welcome to present their concerns to their own legal counsel, to the judge involved, to the Chief Judge, to the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit, or to any other person or entity.
Smith earned both her BA and JD from Stanford University.  She served as a judge in the Northern District from 1988 to 2005.  Klienberg recently retired from a decade on the California Superior Court in Santa Clara County, the largest court in Northern California.

The page for the Court Ombuds asserts three times that the program is confidential. This may strike some as ironic, since this same court recently struck down an Ombuds privilege asserted by Stanford University.  (NDCal Ombuds; Gazzano v. Stanford.)

Related posts: Texas State Bar Considers Ombuds Office; Job Posting: Maryland Courts; Court Ombuds Permitted to Serve as Paid Facilitator; New Ombuds Program Serves Jacksonville Bench and Bar; Is the Ninth Circuit Creating an Ombuds Program?; Law Society Equity Ombuds Assist Canadian Legal Professional; Michigan County Court Launches Pilot Ombuds Program; Maryland Judiciary Closes Ombuds Program.

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