The AOC doesn’t represent me

Posted on February 6, 2012

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For the past couple of days JCW has been exchanging e-mail with one of our long time readers that doesn’t post. That reader who wishes to remain anonymous outlined a challenge that we all take for granted.

One of the big messages that the Judicial Council and AOC is promoting amongst legislators is more funding for the judicial branch. While that is a laudable goal and more funding is required to stave off layoffs, to catch up on filing backlogs that in some court cases are over a year old and to support our courtrooms statewide, what we universally don’t wish to see happen is the judicial council and AOC skim off tens of millions for their largesse and misguided boondoggles. They too should be funded directly by the legislature only after those with boots on the ground serving the public directly are fully funded.

If the trial court bill of financial rights or AB1208 were in effect today, we could have some degree of confidence that lobbying performed by the AOC in the legislature would be for funding local court operations.

Today that isn’t the case.

In the last judicial council meeting the council has determined already how it will spend the 50 million extra in judicial branch funding specified in Governor Brown’s proposed budget because they’re drawing up deployment plans for vaporware. Mind you that the funding might go towards deploying a single instance of CCMS V4 to some unwitting court that never had a computerized case management system and therefore doesn’t know any better. However, most of the money will be earmarked for further CCMS development because the program won’t be able to function in any court without it.

Some of the principal arguments of speak with one voice and attempting to rally all for more court funding is the misguided belief , as the council and AOC expresses is that if we don’t all speak with one voice about court funding that the legislature will take away funds from the trial courts and to a lesser degree, the judicial council and the AOC.

They argue that if we don’t overlook the problems at the AOC and give the chief justice more time (we’re now going on 14 months of window dressing and inaction) that the whole branch will continue to suffer.

We argue that the funding cuts were because of the AOC and Judicial Council inaction in overseeing their administrative offices and that this will be the reason to justify further budget cuts.

In doing nothing with regards to holding people responsible for things like embezzlement, the hiring of unlicensed contractors, some of the worlds most expensive public buildings being built while others are forced to shut down and multi-billion dollar cost overruns on software boondoggles, they demonstrate that they are a poor steward of public funds. However, it has NOT been the Judicial Council or the AOC that has had to pay for this mismanagement. It has been the trial courts that have paid dearly for this mismanagement and lack of oversight.

While the JC/AOC advocate speak with one voice, our long time reader suggested that we all make it perfectly clear to everyone that the AOC doesn’t represent me via a campaign of the same name.

Now, we can’t run campaigns like this where it was suggested that we do something like print buttons, flyers and T-Shirts with The AOC doesn’t represent me emblazoned on them nor do we know if court employees can even wear buttons or shirts or make available flyers at their front counters for such a campaign but it is logical that we would wish to distance ourselves from such reprehensible behavior in any way possible.

Why would I as a taxpaying citizen wish to fund an agency that demonstrates a marked lack of accountability and fails to hold people responsible for mismanagement? Why should the legislature fund these boondoggles either? Assemblymember Calderon was entirely correct when he indicated that the JC/AOC had 70 million dollars to use to keep the courts open but instead, they chose to use the money for their pet projects, to force layoffs and the curtailment of services to the public and to close the courts to create unwarranted political pressure.

In our minds, AB1208 is in part an attempt at disassociation from the AOC for the benefit of the trial courts. It is not the AOC that suffers when 650 million in cuts is foisted upon them when the legislature also offers 150 million in mitigation that the JC/AOC can undertake to preserve access to justice in local courts – and the council pushes those cuts down to the trial courts anyways. When the council only offers part of the mitigating funding and then only offers emergency loans when courts like San Francisco and San Joaquin virtually beg for it when a solution was available all along is fundamentally corrupt.

Our reader suggests that trial courts and their employees distancing themselves from the AOC would be the best course of action and education regarding the real issues regardless of whether or not AB1208 passes.

Under the circumstances, speak with one voice just makes it all seem like a larger conspiracy than it really is.

Is that the image that we wish to portray to the public and our legislators and face further budget cuts or do we want to clean house and chart a new course for the benefit of all?

Feel free to respond to the thread or drop our friends in the judicial council a public comment email @ judicialcouncil@jud.ca.gov