The California Law Revision Commission was established almost seventy years ago as an independent agency. It exists in law for the purpose of assisting the Legislature and Governor in reviewing and making reform suggestions to state laws. The Commission conducts numerous, ongoing studies of California law for the purpose of recommending needed reforms to the state laws.
The Commission is comprised of 7 members, who are appointed for 4-year terms by the Governor and confirmed by the State Senate, as well as one State Senator, one Assembly Member, and the Legislative Counsel (as ex-officio member). Its review of California statutes and appellate court decisions is done “in order to discover defects and anachronisms and recommend legislation to make needed reforms.”
Effective January 1, 2020, there is also a Committee on Revision of the Penal Code. It includes 5 members appointed by the Governor, plus a State Senator and State Assembly Member. The members of this Committee are separate from the Commissioners. All members of the Commission and the Committee are only paid $100 per diem rate, plus actual expenses.
While the Commissioners choose one of the commissioners are the chairperson, the Governor selects the chairperson of the Committee. The Commission can also select an Executive Director, as well as professional, clerical and other assistants as may be necessary. The State Library, as well as all state agencies, must provide information and reasonable assistance to the Commission in terms of research and data. And, the State Bar Board of Trustees must assist the Commission and the Committee.
The Commissioners and Committee members and the staff cannot engage in any lobbying or political activities. The Commission is charged by statute to:
(a) Examine the common law and statutes of the state and judicial decisions for the purpose of discovering defects and anachronisms in the law and recommending needed reforms.
(b) Receive and consider proposed changes in the law recommended by the American Law Institute, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, any bar association or other learned bodies.
(c) Receive and consider suggestions from judges, justices, public officials, lawyers, and the public generally as to defects and anachronisms in the law.
(d) Recommend, from time to time, such changes in the law as it deems necessary to modify or eliminate antiquated and inequitable rules of law, and to bring the law of this state into harmony with modern conditions.
In addition, the Commission must recommend the repeal of any statute that has been held to be unconstitutional by the California or U.S. Supreme Courts.
The Commission and Committee are required by law to submit their reports and recommendations to the Governor and Legislature. The Commission files a report every 2-year Legislative Session that contains a calendar of topics that have been selected for study. Both the Commission and Committee are required to confer and cooperative any legislative committee on revisions to the law. They may also cooperate with any bar associations or other entities that are suitable for fulfilling their duties.
The Commission conducts its business in meetings that are open to the public, and official minutes are posted to its website that includes any decisions made at the Commission’s meetings. There is a formal process for the Commission’s recommendations to be considered and approved.
Once the Commission has made a preliminary decision on a law that is being proposed to be reformed, a tentative recommendation is released and the Commission will seek public comment on its proposed reform. Thereafter, a final recommendation will be sent to the Governor and Legislature. The Commission also releases an explanation of the proposed changes, along with comments that accompany every code section proposed to be changed.
The Commission’s recommendations have resulted in over 22,5000 sections of law being changed, which represents over 90% of the Commission’s recommendations. The Commission provides updated materials including a searchable index of its memoranda and final reports and recommendations.
Its governing statutes are found in California Government Code Sections 8280 – 8298. The following are the key statutes applicable to the Commission:
Section 8280 – Creation of the Commission and a Committee on Revision of the Penal Code
Section 8281 – Membership of the Commission
Section 8281.5 – Membership of the Committee on Revision of the Penal Code
Section 8282 – Compensation and Expenses
Section 8282 – Selection of Chairperson
Section 8284 – Selection of Executive Director
Section 8286 – Assistance of the State
Section 8287 – Assistance of the State Bar
Section 8288 – Political Activities of Commissioners and Staff
Section 8289 – Duties of the Commission
Section 8290 – Unconstitutional and Impliedly Repealed Statutes
Section 8290.5 – Duties of the Committee
Section 8291 – Submission and Distribution of Reports
Section 8292 – Contents of Reports
Section 8293 – Calendar of Topics
Section 8294 – Printing of Reports
Section 8295 – Cooperation with Legislative Committees
Section 8296 – Cooperation with Bar and Other Associations
Section 8297 – Research Contracts
Section 8298 – Recommendations Concerning Minor Revisions