Saturday, December 13, 2008

Impartiality While Blogging Or ...

Avoiding a Reasonable Appearance of an Unacceptable Probability of Actual Bias 

Huh? How's that for a confusing directive? Well this one is taking some serious brain-power to wrap my head around. These days I don't seem to have as much of that as I used to, but I'm going to try and understand this to keep myself, and our Council and Commission, out of trouble while I'm blogging.

Does this concept imply that there is a reasonable appearance of an acceptable probability of actual bias that may not need to be avoided? I don't think so. The statement seeks to maintain impartiality of an administrative agency when dealing with 'quasi-legislative' and 'quasi-judicial' actions related to due process principals. If that sounds like I've got a grasp on it, it's tenuous at best.

We deal with both types on our Council and Planning Commission - legislative for the many, judicial for the individual. Quasi-judicial frequently involves permit reviews and appeals relating to an individual case.

Ok, get some coffee and bear with me now. 

a) "Procedural due process principals apply to quasi-judicial decision-making." "Quasi-legislative acts are not subject to procedural due process requirements..." 
b) "Procedural due process requires a reasonably impartial, noninvolved decision maker."

The "standard of impartiality required at an administrative hearing is less exacting than that required in a judicial proceeding." "[b]ias and prejudice are never implied and must be established by clear avertments (concrete facts)."

So the two, quasi-legislative and quasi-judicial, actions have different standards. I'll avoid or be above even the appearance of impartiality when blogging on quasi-judicial matters. That's an admirable goal for quasi-legislative blogging too, but I bet our lawyer would prefer I just blog about the weather (lol)
I think the goal and spirit of this is that a legislative body member will not advocate for or against a matter pending before the body.
That's a bit easier for me to understand. The Brown Act adds that members not privately discuss matters with each other that are pending, or likely to come before the body. This makes communications more complicated, and hopefully less biased. That's why you won't see Councilmembers blogging with each other - though I'd rather see that public discussion, than be party to private email groups of Councilmembers.

This is why I will use my blog to gather and encourage discussion on all sides of an issue sans Councilmembers and Commissioners - especially on pending quasi-judicial actions. I will come to our public meetings making my decisions there, remaining as impartial and unbiased as I possibly can be, and avoiding the creation of an "unacceptable probability of actual bias" before.

Paper on Avoiding "An Unacceptable Probability of Actual Bias" Nasha v. City of Los Angeles

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Thank you for taking time to read and respond to my post. A quick sentence stating your opinion would be much appreciated - it's the reason I'm blogging, Mike

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