Today’s podcast is on the role of the judicial branch in the lawmaking process here in California. Members of the state and federal judiciary branches play a role in California lawmaking in the actual legislative process, as part of our state government system of checks and balances. When California statutes or regulations are legally challenged, for example, then the state or federal court that makes a determination establishes a public policy for the state.
Of course, California statutes and regulations may be challenged on either federal or state constitutional grounds. As a result, both state and federal courts may play a role in the state lawmaking process. In addition to these legal challenges, both federal and state courts may be called upon to interpret California statutes or regulations.
Statutory interpretation is a primary role of the judicial branch of government in the state lawmaking process. In fact, courts are regularly called upon to interpret state statutes and regulations, sometimes to the dismay of elected officials in the executive or legislative branches of government.
This third branch of government does play a crucial role in the lawmaking process when the courts determine what the legislative intent was of a statute, or whether a regulation comports with the Administrative Procedure Act, or whether a statute or regulation is constitutional. This, of course, is the most critical role of the judicial branch in the state lawmaking process.
Occasionally, the California Legislature passes a law that does not comport with the state or federal constitutions. Despite claims by judges that they leave lawmaking to the elected branches of government, when judges modify statutes or issue a determination of how a statute or regulation is to be interpreted and applied, then judges do, to some degree, become a critical part of the state policy making process.
Hence, from my perspective, all three branches of state government do, in fact, play a role in the development of state public policy.