How to reject over a billion dollars in federal funds………………. The American Reinvestment & Recovery Act and the Judicial Council / AOC

Posted on November 24, 2010

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Some time ago I saw an allegation that the AOC never applied for American Reinvestment & Recovery Act dollars (also known as stimulus funds) towards courthouse construction so I did extensive checking on Recovery.gov. I invite you to do the same as it’s a fascinating site. While I could find a series of grants made to the AOC as a second tier recipient from the California Emergency Management Agency, I could not find a single dollar of federal funds loaned, granted or awarded directly to the AOC or Judicial Council themselves.  The grants made from the California Emergency Management Agency according to recovery.gov amount to less than 2 million dollars and were awarded as a sub grant. The Inspector General overseeing California’s share of stimulus funding, Laura Chick has already blasted CEMA’s sub-grants for their lack of accountability and has been looking into how some of this CEMA sub grant money was actually spent.

Our new fearless leader (you know her - she who gets no honeymoon from Judicial Council Watcher) stood up in front of an ABC News camera and told us “Everything is vetted, everything is put out for public comment” as if she sincerely believed that the Judicial Council and the AOC were transparent and accountable.

I challenge the new puppeteer Chief Justice (or anyone else) to point to judicial council meeting minutes or where public comment was solicited or where the Judicial Council discussed the billions that were available under the American Reinvestment & Recovery Act and what concrete steps were made to secure this federal funding on any AOC project as a direct recipient / implementing agency because I can’t find any. Failing that, I wish to see Judicial Council meeting minutes where ARRA funding for any Judicial Council project were mentioned at all.  

This allegation is very bothersome because the requirements were rather simple. All you had to do to qualify was to be transparent and accountable with laws designed to protect the taxpayers in place. Historically the AOC normally does not miss a beat when federal funding is made available for anything related to the AOC or Judicial Council operations. Yet in this instance, where the federal government financed infrastructure projects with nearly a trillion dollars that they could not give away fast enough, where all you had to do to qualify was to be transparent and accountable, the JC/AOC applied for and was awarded nothing as a direct recipient / implementing agency.

Comparing the projects that might have qualified had funding been sought to projects that were completed, it appears that the Judicial Council let well over a billion dollars sail by them unclaimed. Money that could have been utilized by the California Case Management System (CCMS) or money that could have been utilized by any of the new shovel ready courthouse construction builds or money that could have been utilized to repair years of deferred maintenance on courthouses being transferred to the state. Indeed, if nothing had transferred the local cities or counties themselves might have applied for this funding to improve their local courthouses. What evidence do I have that this might have happened? In Hanford California the City of Hanford applied for and received $206,800 in DOE funding to fix the courthouses chiller plant and HVAC system at the local courthouse. (Reference: DOE grant number EE0002294)

This would appear to be the only federal ARRA funds made directly available to any courthouse project in California. This represents over a billion dollars forever lost to California’s judicial branch. Had this money been secured, other monies could have been diverted to save the judicial branch from all of the pain it has experienced over the last two years. Someone should be held accountable and yet we have not heard much about this at all from the most secretive branch of California government. Indeed, all we hear is how everything is vetted and goes out for public comment……

Except for billion dollar decisions that affect the lives of every California taxpayer…..