Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti forecast Thursday that "right-wing" campaigns to oust Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird and other state Supreme Court justices next year will fail because California voters reject "mean, lowdown, nasty attacks."
The Los Angeles Democrat said he believes that Bird will survive and will "end up looking like Joan of Arc against the greedy and the nasty."
Roberti lashed out at various groups that have announced plans to try to defeat Bird and at least two other Supreme Court justices when they seek voter confirmation in 1986. The groups have accused the court of making decisions that favor criminals at the expense of crime victims and of failure to implement the state's death penalty law.
He said he disagreed with some decisions of the high court but that in a democratic society, liberties of citizens "are based on a free judiciary that does not have to feel that every time they render a decision it is going to be subjected to a whim-of-the-moment" popularity test.
"My prediction is that the court is going to be retained," he said, because the "far right wing just doesn't know how to conduct a campaign without being nasty. . . . They just can't help themselves and they are going to go overboard and they can't control it."
California voters, he told a press conference, "may disagree profoundly with someone's position and may not want to vote for that person, but they do not like mean, lowdown, nasty attacks, especially against women."
Asked for evidence of dirty campaign tactics, Roberti said lawmakers have received campaign literature and letters almost two years in advance of the election that fit into his definition of nasty. He said he would publicly display the material later.
Roberti said he considered it wrong to lump the court's many reversals of death penalty cases together and to consider the matter as if only one issue were involved. He said he believes the court considers each appeal on a case-by-case basis.
He said he believes that any citizen whose case came before the high court would want it judged on its own merits. "To discuss all cases in a lump sum and want to know why there is no blood spilled yet, I don't think that is justice," Roberti said.
Republican lawmakers from Orange County and a bipartisan group called Crime Victims for Court Reform are among those seeking Bird's ouster. The crime victims' group is directed by consultant Bill Roberts, a former campaign manager for Gov. George Deukmejian.