Hundred million dollar agency responsible for a half a billion a year in branch spending cuts 29 employees

Posted on June 9, 2012

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June 8, 2012

Dear Members and others,

By now you have probably seen the press release from the AOC, with an operating budget of over $100 million, announcing the layoff of 29 “employees.” The release, like many AOC documents, raises more questions than it answers. We attach for your review an email sent yesterday to second Interim Administrative Director, Jody Patel, from Alliance board member Judge Maryanne Gilliard which requests a complete breakdown of these “layoffs.” As with other requests for information, Ms. Patel has decided to treat an inquiry from a sitting judge pursuant to CRC 10.500. Therefore, we do not expect to receive answers any time soon. We will, of course keep you posted.

While the Alliance appreciates any downsizing of the central bureaucracy, we are concerned that what amounts to a negligible cut not be confused with the key issues. How many courtrooms have the trial courts closed as a direct result of AOC policy and practices? How many local courts have reduced hours of service to the public because of misplaced priorities of the Judicial Council? How many dedicated front line trial court staff have lost their jobs, only to find out that the AOC continued to hire and hand out pay raises and pension spikes?

The AOC cuts should not be measured on the same scale as the trial courts cuts and it is wrongheaded to equate the bureaucracy with the local courts that perform the task of dispensing justice in our communities. In reality, the AOC is nothing more than “overhead cost” and in these times of drastic budget cuts, the first thing that should be done is to significantly reduce the overhead. Under these circumstances 29 layoffs do not merit a statewide press release.

Finally, the Alliance would note that it continues to be a challenge to pin down exactly how many personnel are being paid by the AOC. For instance, Ms. Patel states in yesterday’s press release that, “As of June 30…..the total number of AOC employees, including full time and part-time employees, contractors, and temporary workers is estimated to be 860.” The Daily Journal pointed out yesterday that to get to this point, the AOC plans to lay off approximately 190 workers, 100 of whom are temps and contractors. On May 1st, AOC staff member Phillip Carrizosa indicated to the press in writing that the AOC records showed “about 750 employees,” and then on May 4th Mr. Carrizosa referred to a document that listed 801 employees. Of course we now know that as of March 2011, the SEC found that the “AOC staff had grown in number to over 1100,” and that as of December 2011 they had over 1000 employees. It is frankly embarrassing for those who purport to represent the judicial branch to be incapable of disseminating trustworthy information. We agree with the SEC’s recommendation that, “The AOC must take steps to restore its credibility.” Agreeing on a consistent number would be a good start.

Directors, Alliance of California Judges

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From: Gilliard, Maryanne
Sent: Thursday, June 07, 2012 3:24 PM
To: ‘Patel, Jody’
Subject: AOC “layoffs”

Dear Jody,

I am in receipt of a news release dated June 7th wherein you announce that 29 AOC staff will be laid off. In Sacramento we are laying off 48 employees effective July 1st. I am sure that you are aware that three years ago we discontinued the use of ten temporary employees to scan civil documents in to the labor intensive CCMS program because we could no longer afford to keep them on our payroll. As of July 1st the Sacramento Superior Court will have no more than 620 employees. Interestingly enough, three years ago we had 808 employees while the AOC claimed to have 925. (I am unable to verify this number for accuracy because the AOC is the source of this information). As a result of the comprehensive investigation conducted by the SEC we now know that the AOC had over 1100 on the payroll at a time when many courts were laying off staff, reducing hours of service, and cutting pay.

Having now had the time to read and digest the SEC report, I am sure you are mindful of the observation made by the committee that the AOC lacks credibility with judges and others. It is for that reason and in the spirit of transparency that I request that you provide to me the following information concerning these “layoffs” including the following:

A complete breakdown of the layoffs specifying when they occurred, what the reason for the separation was, what division the person was connected to, whether the contract employing them expired, whether after July 1st any of these individuals will be doing any work for which the AOC or Judicial Council will compensate them directly or indirectly, how many temporary and contract personnel will still be on the payroll after June 30th, the total paid out under the “voluntary separation” program, what cost/benefit analysis was done to support a “voluntary separation” program involving “at will” employees, how many employees took advantage of such program and when the program will end.

It would appear from your news release that this material is readily available. I therefore thank you in advance for your cooperation in providing this information to me the first part of next week.