On Tap – June ’12 Judicial Council Muppet Show (Day 1) and the controversy surrounding the vote to reform the AOC

Posted on June 21, 2012

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It seems to us that a new pattern is beginning to develop. With judicial council critics statewide pointing out the obvious, namely that you can’t govern by meeting six or seven days a year we’re beginning to see more two and three day judicial council meetings so that the anointed can say they put in the time into responsible governance.  Of course, they remain spoonfed by the AOC and the  two dozen or so people who have ostensibly run the branch for the past 15 or so years but hey at least they can say they spent more time at governance.

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Other now familiar patterns are beginning to develop as well. Patterns where the judicial council and AOC has been caught with their pants about their ankles, yet they try to convince us that this was all in the past – a snapshot in time about 50 weeks ago and a whole lot of change has come to the AOC in those 50 or so weeks. Nearly all of the inept management of the AOC is still with us. The AOC tells us they eliminated thirty six jobs that no one can seem to verify and by the end of this month, the inept management will have eliminated a whole 235 jobs including temps, consultants, voluntary separation incentive program participants and people who have announced their retirements ( but haven’t necessarily retired…)

The inept management has only made a token effort of looking at their own issues and has circled wagons against the SEC recommendations. Recommendations that target management and director jobs – the top of the AOC food chain where all of the inept management exists. They’re being joined by the same insiders that have run the branch for the same 15 or so years.

In another thread we heard about how the legislature is about to give the AOC the right to hijack another fifty million dollars in trial court trust funds for obligations already on the books for FY12-13.

Yet elsewhere in that same thread, Michael Paul suggests that this is not the way the AOC operates and Michael’s opinion has now been backed up by a few email to JCW that indicate that the AOC is obsessive about contracts and obligations not extending into the new fiscal year because the AOC has no spending authority without the legislature passing a budget.

So what gives?

Is the AOC trying to create a 50 million dollar slush fund to fund new ipads for remaining employees? The people from the ministry of truth are simply not credible. If the AOC has fifty million dollars of TCTF money already obligated in a year that hasn’t yet commenced we suggest that the AOC be obligated to prove those funds are already obligated in FY12-13. We would also suggest that if it were true, it would underscore allegations of fiscal mismanagement and the AOC needs a regime change. If it’s not true, then the AOC is lying to everyone and needs a regime change.

Rock, meet the hard spot.

And what of the sixteen million dollar refund from Deloitte that has yet to materialize?  How does that money, Trial Court trust funds being refunded back to the AOC figure into things? Is this sixteen million now what the AOC will now use to decommission and dissect CCMS with the Senate smartly unfunding 7 million the governance wizards intended on paying to decommission CCMS?

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Courtesy of our friends over at AFSCME local 575

As most of you already know, the Los Angeles Superior Court lost a very valuable and loved employee on Friday, June 15, 2012, Gregory Nemo. Greg had started his career with the Los Angeles Municipal Court over 28
years ago and has touched the lives of many employees over the years as part of Facilities and the Central Stockroom.

Funeral arrangements for Greg are Sunday, June 24, 2012 at 10:30 a.m.

Seventh Day Adventist Church
4491 Kansas Avenue
Riverside, CA 92507

Greg’s wife has asked that we let those who knew and loved Greg, that the family would like financial assistance with the funeral arrangements. Therefore the following are two ways you can send support to the family:

Send gifts of condolences directly to:

Ms. Lossie Nemo
5017 Manitoba Drive
Fontana, CA 92336
-OR-

s. Lossie Nemo
c/o Tony Humber, Warehouse Supervisor
Stanley Mosk Courthouse/Central Stockroom
111 North Hill Street, Room 325
Los Angeles, CA 90012

A very large sympathy card will be placed outside the Stockroom customer service window until Friday, June 22nd at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Room 325 if you would like to express your thoughts and prayers to the family.

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une 20, 2012

Dear Members and Others,

We attach an article by Courthouse News reporter Maria Dinzeo regarding
the controversy surrounding the results of a vote by our state’s presiding
judges undertaken by the current chairman of the Presiding Judges
Committee. In short, it appears that an attempt has been made to undercut
the recommendations of the Strategic Evaluation Committee by means of a
“push poll” type ballot. We applaud the incoming chair of the Presiding
Judges Committee, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Laurie Earl, for
demonstrating leadership by challenging the manner in which this “vote”
will be presented to the Judicial Council.

On that note, we want to remind you that the council will be meeting on
Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week. Alliance director, Judge
Steve White, has been granted permission to address the council regarding
the SEC report on Thursday. You can listen in to his presentation by
clicking on this link <http://www.courts.ca.gov/18413.htm&gt;.

In the next day or so we hope to provide you with an analysis of the
judicial branch budget, provided the Governor and legislative leaders are
able to come to a final agreement. Please know that we will keep you
updated on all important developments.

Directors, Alliance of California Judges

__________________________________________
Presiding Judges Debate Vote on Reform of CA Court Bureaucracy
By MARIA DINZEO

SAN FRANCISCO (Courthouse News) – California’s presiding judges are embroiled in
debate over a vote on whether to push forward with extensive reforms
recommended after a year-long investigation into the central bureaucracy of
the courts. Some trial judges say the vote, which is to be presented at a
Judicial Council meeting Thursday, was skewed in order to protect the
bureaucracy.

The proposed reforms came in a report last month from the Strategic
Evaluation Committee, an independent group of judges appointed by Chief
Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. The report blasted the Administrative Office
of the Courts for hiding its finances and number of employees, and
exercising a “culture of control” over the state’s trial courts. It called
for sweeping reform with over 100 recommendations, including cutting the
staff by one-third and eliminating entire divisions.

“It seems to me that our branch is at a pivotal point where change is
imminent,” said Presiding Judge Laurie Earl of Sacramento County.

In an email debate among the presiding judges, she added, “I encourage
ALL PJs to not let this opportunity to get involved pass us by. We should
support our colleagues on the SEC and roll up our sleeves.”

The email exhortation was part of a vigorous debate among the state’s
presiding judges over a recent survey sent out by Presiding Judge David
Rosenberg of Yolo County. The manner in which he was interpreting the
results was seen as an attempt to dilute the hard-hitting conclusions of
the SEC report and protect the administrative office from the sweeping
changes recommended in the report.

Rosenberg is the current chair of the Trial Court Presiding Judges
Advisory Committee, made up of the 58 presiding judges from all of
California’s far-flung counties. Earl is the incoming chair.

In the survey, Rosenberg asked the presiding judges to say first if
they want to implement the recommended reforms “with all deliberate speed,”
and second if they support the reforms “in principle.”

The first survey question asks, “Should the TCPJAC recommend to the
Judicial Council that the Judicial Council endorse and adopt the SEC Report
in its entirety and make every effort to implement all of the
recommendations with all deliberate speed?”

The second question asks, “Should the TCPJAC inform the Judicial
Council that the TCPJAC supports, in principle, the thorough analysis and
recommendations for change contained in the SEC Report?”

A final question asks, “And if you answered both of these questions
with a ‘yes,’ which of the two is your preference?”

A tabulation ( http://www.courthousenews.com/2012/06/19/survey.pdf ) of
the votes shows that, of the 40 presiding judges who voted, 4 voted yes
only for option 1 — full speed ahead, 12 voted yes only for option 2 –
support merely “in principle.”

But fully 24 voted yes for both 1 and 2. Of those who voted for both,
only 2 said they preferred the “in principle” option, while a huge majority
of 22 voted their preference for option 1 — “all deliberate speed.”

Earl declined to be interviewed about the debate over the vote. “The
discussion was one that could and should be resolved by the PJs rather than
debated in the press,” she said.

However, a lengthy email exchange discussing the vote was widely
circulated among the state’s judges and forwarded by judges who are not on
the presiding judges committee. The email exchange shows that Earl
advocated vigorously to include the tally for question 3 where judges who
showed their preference between the “all deliberate speed” and “in
principle” options.

In that exchange, Rosenberg argued that question 3 was only meant to
kick in if neither the full-speed or the go-slow option received a
majority. “The third question would have only kicked in if BOTH Option 1
and Option 2 had received at least a majority vote,” he wrote in the
emails. “But that did not occur.”

That method of tallying the vote would favor the “in principle” option
rather than the “all deliberate speed” option.

Earl countered, “First, the crafting of the language of Questions 1 &
2 lend themselves to a particular result, in that almost everyone
preferring Option #1 would also predictably vote for Option 2, (since
Option 2 is almost subsumed within Option 1) while the converse would not
be true: People preferring Option 2 would not normally also vote for Option
1.”m”However the bigger problem lies in the way the data has been chosen
to be interpreted and reported,” Earl continued.

“40 PJs voted, 26 of them indicated a preference for Option 1 by
either voting for that option alone, or by voting ‘yes’ on both questions,
but indicating Option 1 as their preferred option,” she wrote. “The
remaining 14 judges indicated a preference for Option 2 either by voting
that option alone, or by voting ‘yes’ on both questions, but indicating
Option 2 as their preferred option.

“The way you are choosing to report the data, as indicated below,
makes it appear that a majority of respondents preferred Option 2, which is
incorrect,” Earl wrote. “Without a doubt, of 40 PJs voting, a majority
clearly indicated a preference for Option 1. For those of us who voted for
both, but expressed a preference for Option 1, our ‘yes’ vote on Option 2
essentially erased our vote for Option 1.”

She concluded, “As a result, I believe it is more accurate to report
to the council, that the TCPJAC recommends to the Judicial Council that the
Judicial Council endorse and adopt the SEC Report in its entirety and make
every effort to implement all of the recommendations with all deliberate
speed, as reflected by the majority vote.”

Judge Daniel Goldstein of San Diego commented with some disbelief on
the judges who voted for supporting reform “in principle” but voted against
reform at “all deliberate speed.” “Who voted against implementing remedies against waste, mismanagement
and abuse of taxpayer dollars? That is what’s striking,” he said. “That a
presiding judge would vote against saving their budget and stopping waste,
mismanagement and abuse of taxpayer dollars, that’s amazing.”

He also took issue with the way the “in principle” question was
phrased and the way the vote was tallied.

“It’s really an ambiguous question,” he said. “You can’t look at two
without looking at one. Question one is an objectively verifiable question.
It has an answer — either you’re for implementation or against
implementation. It is clear. Question two is amorphous. It doesn’t require
action.”

“Further complicating the matter is a erroneous computation of the
vote,” he added. “I would assume the presiding judges who voted yes on
question one are going to take issue with this.”

The disagreement has led some presiding judges to ask for another vote.
Presiding Judge Beth Freeman in San Mateo County wrote in the email
exchange, “I think our voting procedure has caused an anomalous result. I
would request a re-vote on question 1 — to urge the Judicial Council to
adopt the SEC Report and Recommendations.”

Rosenberg answered, “I do not intend to have a revote. I do intend to
present the voting results of BOTH option 1 and 2 to the JC so that all
votes yea and nay can be presented.”

However, in an interview on Tuesday, Rosenberg said he will present
the numbers on all three survey questions to the Judicial Council on
Thursday, adding “It would have been a lot less complicated if we only put
one issue out there.”

“It’s my intention simply to present everything, the raw vote on all
three issues that were put before the presiding judges,” Rosenberg added.

“I’ve also urged all presiding judges to write their letters to the
Judicial Council if they support the report, if they oppose certain
portions, whatever their position is,” he said. “That’s what the members of
the SEC requested. These simple yea or nay votes don’t mean that much –
it’s more significant if people address the substantive issues.”

Presiding Judge Sherrill Ellsworth from Riverside is one of the
authors of the SEC report that recommended sweeping reforms to the
Administrative Office of the Courts.

In the email exchange over the vote, she says, “I agree with Earl’s
comments and appreciate them. In many respects a report such as this is a
pretty thankless labor. It is far too easy to Monday Morning Quarterback.”

“I can tell you no one on our committee had an axe to grind. I can
also report that our chair Judge Charlie Wachob and our vice chair Judge
Brian McCabe were consummate professionals capturing the information we
were given and translating it into the report I hope you have all read.
This report was labor intensive, thorough and the result of hours and hours
of work.”

“To me it is simple, we were given a task by our Chief and we
fulfilled that task,” she said. “Some may not like the findings or the tone
but, the report is neither diluted nor inflated. It is a tool for change,
self-examination and restructuring the future of the branch.”
Ellsworth also declined to be interviewed on the controversy.

Presiding Judge Richard Scheuler of Tehama County voted “no” on
question one, but “yes” to the second question, supporting the committee’s
report only in principle.

“I have great confidence in the chief justice and great confidence in
the Judicial Council and the vote gave them the discretion to do what they
do best, which is governance,” said Scheuler in an interview Monday. “I
appreciate the hard work that went into that report. I appreciate that the
chief justice asked for it. They’re in the best position to implement the
recommendations.”