Yes, http://www.avxm.com forwarded you here. You’re in the right place.
Maybe you received a business sized card that looked like this.
Welcome to Judicial Council Watcher’s citizen education & action campaign.
To start off with a historical roundup of where we are at this moment , please follow this link to a ABC News 10 San Diego report on the current crisis.
(Please note: Underlined portions of this article are web links to other articles)
The history behind the problem:
About 14 years ago new laws merged the municipal courts with the superior courts and placed all courts under statewide unification. Some of the arguments for statewide unification at the time included: a more stable funding source in the state than in the county, the elimination of 58 fiefdoms for one statewide justice system and greater efficiencies by combining operations. Unfortunately, the architects of unification left quite a few details out on how this was to be coordinated and accomplished. Oversight, checks and balances from the other two branches of government, transparency or accountability never appeared on anyones radar. After all, if you can’t trust a small group of judges, justices and their appointed administrators, who can you trust?
The Rise of The Borg: (Commonly known as the Judicial Council of California, Administrative office of the Courts or simply, The AOC) (California’s largest fiefdom – accountable to no one)
If you’ve ever gotten a ticket, you probably saw some text on that ticket that indicated that it was written on an approved judicial council form. About 14 years ago, that’s mostly what the Judicial Council did was approve new court rules, policies, court procedure and forms. It was a San Francisco based agency of less than 300 people. Under the guidance of Chief Justice Ronald George and AOC Executive Director William Vickrey, this obscure little agency grew from less than 300 fairly paid form pushers and bureaucrats to over a thousand overpaid people organized in such a manner that it became its own shadow government. Going well beyond their mandate of supporting the trial courts, they usurped limited authority to create a monstrous bureaucracy absent of any oversight and commenced appropriating themselves large piles of cash from the money that was previously apportioned amongst the trial courts. Most of the people who were part of the AOC back then were destined for management, having been promoted by the voters. By this time, George and Vickrey were already working on a method to engender the continued patronage of the trial courts so that they could consolidate absolute power over the trial courts and their funding. They would be concentrating their efforts in two areas. One was in a statewide case management computer system that would be managed exclusively by the AOC and the other would be in trial court facilities and court construction managed exclusively by the AOC.
Judges fighting for the people against kangaroo governance.
(program note: at 4:15 into the above segment, you will see our new chief justice when she was just a court of appeal justice and judicial council member lie her ass off, representing that everything is vetted, everything is put out for public comment. The fact of the matter is she is now ostensibly in charge of a small, closed knit group who keep close control of the Judicial Council by not vetting everything, by not putting things out for comment, but to appoint committees of fellow cronies who want to convince you that the blue sky is red. This lady is the chair of the largest fiefdom in California. She has had months to change course. Now she is choosing to make your line longer, and delay civil justice for over 5 years all so her cronies can occupy new courthouses)
Just as The Borg of Star Trek, the AOC set out to assimilate individual trial courts by rotating their own people into the executive management of those courts, while offering other executive management in those trial courts high level AOC jobs. The end result today is what many in the court system call “Borg Managed Courts”. As of the time of this posting, Borg managed courts include: Marin, Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara,
San Francisco, San Diego, Placer, Shasta, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Riverside & San Bernardino. While there are more of them than this small list, these were the Borg courts of major significance. These courts executive management are all currently wholesale franchises of the AOC’s central control model. At times, other courts have gone in this general direction as well but smartly pulled back when they began to feel the detrimental impact of AOC mismanagement.
The AOC: The only place in California where a raise is not really a raise. (ABC Channel 7 San Francisco) News Link And you wonder why that line in court was so damn long?
The Birth of CCMS – The California Case Management System and the rise of software development fraud
One method of consolidating power and engendering the continued patronage of the trial courts was to develop a solution to a problem that really didn’t exist. The problem that really didn’t exist was that there wasn’t one single case management system serving every court in the state run by the AOC. Instead, each court ran their own case management systems. In some cases, courts ran multiple case management systems to serve different types of cases. Most of these systems didn’t talk to each other. Realistically, most of these systems didn’t need to talk to each other either. All they really needed to do was provide a central repository of court case information at the trial court level. However, the AOC made their argument all about venue transparency and the purported lower costs of running one system statewide for all case types.
Here is an ABC News (Channel 7 San Francisco) story about the challenges of CCMS more than a year ago, before real audits exposed real challenges and costs.
It would be near impossible to engender the continued patronage of the trial courts unless the AOC remained in control of the system and collected fees from the trial courts for operating it. Having the trial courts operate the system locally inside their courts which makes far more sense from a technical perspective, would prevent continued patronage and the ongoing collection of fees to support the AOC’s growth and operations. As such, running CCMS locally was never an option. The AOC needed to run CCMS out of a dedicated data center controlled by the AOC. This data center would be called the CCTC or the California Courts Technology Center and would consist of a set of really expensive services offered to trial courts that lacked their own I.T staff. It was also destined to be the home of CCMS because it was controlled by the AOC.
Without a plan, without a justified business case, without any appropriated budget or without any realistic cost estimates, the AOC put themselves in the software development business, taking money from the trial courts to develop a system for them. The initial estimates for CCMS was that it would cost 260 million dollars and be ready for deployment in 2006. Nine years later, five years past the delivery date, this boondoggle has over 600 million dollars invested into it and has projected costs of nearly 3 BILLION dollars when all is said and done. Oh. And it can never work as it was designed to work because the AOC continues to believe that they can move data between any courthouse in California and the Technology Center located in Tempe, Arizona faster than any court could move that same data over their local networks. While technically impossible, it has not stopped the AOC from continuing to advocate this model purely for the survival of the AOC empire. When it comes to control over the trial courts, the Judicial Council has come to the decision that money is no object because they can continue to fund this goal by taking this money from the trial courts. Money that would have made your wait in line shorter. Today, the estimated 3 billion dollar CCMS deployment is only supported by two trial courts. Most of the judges and courts in the state want the AOC to end the boondoggle so that they can keep their courtrooms open. The AOC’s goal is to keep their eye on the prize of continued patronage and the trial courts’ utter reliance on AOC existence, regardless of what the human or financial toll is.
The Rise of Construction Contracting Fraud
In 2003, Senate Bill 1732 was passed and the Trial Court Facilities Act was born. This was a legal arrangement to transfer trial court facilities under county control to state responsibility and to create funding mechanisms to care for these real estate assets. All of this money went to the AOC and the empire building commenced in earnest. Rather than have local courts rely on local sources for building maintenance or managing their own construction and maintenance projects, all of this activity was to be headquartered out of an AOC office in Sacramento. Rather than assume existing court or county personnel that were operating the facilities, the AOC believed it knew better than anyone and chose to contract everything out. But instead of using commonly accepted contracting practices, they chose to contract with unqualified, unlicensed contractors that started by hiring less than experienced people they could get to do the job for less than prevailing wages to fulfill the contract. Then they began steering these unlicensed, unqualified contractors tens of millions of dollars of no-bid, sole source grossly overpriced work.
In what will go down as histories great legends in public corruption. they even contracted with the entity they selected for maintenance and operations to have them write their own rule book called the facilities contracting policies and procedures. so that they could remain exempt from the legal requirements of public contract code. Public contract code, unfortunately, is where all of California’s fraud, waste abuse and public corruption laws are located. Instead of adhering to the same rules as everyone else, the Judicial Council and the AOC sought and were granted exemptions.
Contained in the Facilities Contracting Policies & Procedures is not one single rule, law, policy or procedure. Corrupt practices go completely unchecked. While we can’t prove that it has happened, it’s entirely legal to accept kickbacks or payments in kind for referring work to anyone you want. The AOC again skimmed off significant funding out of the construction program for empire building, hiring people across the organization and charging them against the construction funds – even if they had nothing to do with construction. Today “SB1732 employees” represent somewhere between 50 and 75 employees that have nothing to do with court construction.
Upping the Ante on Construction Fraud – Consolidating power through Court Construction (SB1407)
2008 was an economically destitute year for state coffers. While the other two branches of government experience term limits and the upheaval of legislative advocacy when those term limits are reached, the states judiciary in the form of the AOC’s Office of Governmental Affairs has been able to stay on message and able to promote their causes. The harsh economic times being experienced in California didn’t stop the AOC lobbying for, nor the state legislature approving six billion dollars worth of court construction bonds. The legislature needed to approve these bonds because the voters never would and they counted on a termed out legislator to carry the ball.
SB1407 would create a priority list of new courthouses. In many cases, that priority list has no real basis in need. What it has been used as is a political tool to have key supporters continue to blindly support the AOC’s empire building. If someone were going to build you a half-billion dollar building if you would support them, then it goes to reason that if you want the half-billion dollar building, then you support them and look the other way or ignore critical questions when they’re asked. As the Judicial Council or the AOC, you know who butters your bread because what goes around comes around. With respect to various committee appointments available that influence the JC/AOC operations, the AOC has made an investment in the courts. These courts pay the AOC back through advocating their positions.
Such is the case in the latest strategic evaluation committee that is being asked to review AOC’s operations. A majority of those appointees have court construction projects in the works and have a vested interest in supporting the AOC’s empire.
The courthouse construction list has been re-ordered to accommodate political deals. A clear case of this was East Contra County Courthouse in Pittsburg. In the initial list of court construction priorities, ECCC was so far down the list that it would never be built. Then, magically the presiding judge was made a justice (and became the primary cheerleader for the 3 billion dollar boondoggle known as CCMS) but not before a couple of other controversial things happened, like Judge O’Malley rising to power staunchly being an advocate for court construction and Kirre Torre assuming her husband’s old job after being villified in Santa Clara County for her mismanagement there. Being a staunch AOC supporter, she could be relied upon to approve anything the AOC put in front of her.
These maneuvers all happened all at the same time and the ECCC jumped up the list from “never likely to be built” to number five on the priority list ad the AOC gained a staunch supporter across the board in Contra Costa County, despite previously costly mismanagement mistakes conducted by the AOC and imposed upon contra costa county courts. Placer county, another staunch AOC supporter, a county with a relatively small population would get two new courthouses when residents felt they didn’t need any new courthouse. The one that existed everyone believed to be more than adequate.
This “we don’t need a new courthouse” mentality has been repeated by citizens all over the state, yet because the AOC wants the political support of judicial officials and could care less about what citizens think, the courthouse list continues to be used as a political tool to keep court execs and judges in line and in support of the AOC. SB1407 also reinforced that lawless construction activities would be the accepted standard and exemptions to public contract code would continue.
Because of this continued exemption to public contract code, California’s fraud, waste, abuse and pubic corruption laws, the AOC would not be permitted to seek any funds under the federal American Reinvestment & Recovery Act (better known as stimulus funds) because transparency, accountability and anti-corruption laws were required elements of this federal funding and the AOC had none of this. While other state legislatures across the country would move mountains to enact laws to qualify for this funding, California, sitting on 25 billion dollars worth of debt and in dire need of stimulus funds, not only authorized six billion worth of bonds but turned away an estimated billion dollars in “shovel ready” stimulus funds for projects like court construction and the ill-fated Court Case Management System. Knowing that stimulus funds were out of reach didn’t stop King George from trying to seek federal funding outside of stimulus funds with a junket to Washington D.C. for CCMS, yet he wouldn’t travel to Sacramento to get them to pass anti-corruption laws to make the AOC eligible for these funds.
Meanwhile, AOC Senior Technical Analyst Michael Paul is seriously questioning AOC management about ”steering no-bid, cost plus construction contracting work to unlicensed contractors at prices that are off the charts” and courthouse construction costs being illustrated by the AOC of up to $1,900.10 per square foot – nearly four times what it costs the federal government to build a courthouse.
Really, with all of this anecdotal evidence, why would anyone have any reason to believe people are on the take?
Take Action! Sign an online petition
Please note that we have been informed of a flaw in the PetitionVoice online petition. The security code that you enter takes TWO authentications often rejecting the first code. Be sure you actually signed the petition by looking for your name at the bottom of the petition. Thanks!
Petition Number One: Democratize the Judicial Council
Petition Number Two: Pass Assembly Bill 1208
Petition Number Four: End Funding for the California Case Management System
TAKE ACTION – Write a snail mail letter to your legislators & participate in the discussion here at Judicial Council Watcher.
Demand an immediate audit of the Judicial Council, the AOC, ALL contracts and all contractors
Demand Judicial Council Democratization over Kangaroo Governance
Advocate moving all court construction, maintenance and operations to the Department of General Services immediately
Demand changes in Judicial Branch oversight
Demand the dismantling of the AOC’s shadow government
(As of the time of remodeling this page on 7/17/2011 we have 193 posts, about 2900 comments from fellow bloggers and somewhere north of 1,270,000 people who have visited us since our inception.
At the core of the AOC and Judicial Council exists a number of corrupt individuals, some who wear robes, who have made a considerable effort to deny you honest services. They are above the law and arrogantly flaunt it. It’s time to take them down and boot them from their bureaucratic offices, take the money out of their hands fueling this mess and re-shape the underlying governance model that has made this corrupt little organization virtually untouchable and self-perpetuating.
Numerous constituencies have all formed to take the necessary chunks out of this organization that will at minimum be a disincentive to the fraud, waste, abuse and public corruption and move the money out of the hands of the corrupt. Individually, they only perform parts of the job. Together they do not perform all that needs to be accomplished – but they deal with the money whose wasted expenditures could keep the courthouse doors open. Other governance reforms, like democratization of the judicial council itself need to be implemented to ensure nothing like this happens in the future.
Our recommendations are as follows:
Assembly Bill 1208 | AB1208
The Calderon Trial Courts Rights Act of 2011 – Support
The needs for passing this law can be found in an op-ed by Judge Maryanne Gilliard here.
From Judge Chuck Horan here.
It is of the opinion of Judicial Council Watcher that a small, insular group of individuals who control the AOC and Judicial Council are diligently working to part you of your hard-earned tax dollars utilizing creative strategies, destroying incriminating evidence and records and trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes as to what is really occurring. One of their main vehicles of this financial impropriety is trial court funds held in various accounts by the AOC that are being siphoned off from the trial courts. SB1208 transfers the responsibilities of these funds that belong to the trial courts back to the trial courts.
Next steps below
This bill is currently being held in the Assembly Appropriations Committee out of fear the Senate will kill it.
The Gorell Public Contract Code Act of 2011 – Support -
Assembly Bill 314 | AB314
The concept is simple. Courthouses are public buildings. The public has a right to ensure that their tax dollars spent in the construction arena are properly spent. Lawless construction leads to fraud, waste, abuse and public corruption. As evidenced by the courthouse maintenance program run by the AOC, fraud, waste, abuse and public corruption is abundantly evident. Yet, we still have the opportunity as a people to ensure the balance of our public funds are protected with meaningful reform. A key reform is to ensure that public building construction is covered, enforced and protected by California’s fraud, waste, abuse and public corruption laws. Not some flimsy set of policies and procedures not bound by the rule of law and immune from investigation that permits the small insular group to rob the public and trial courts.
Next steps below
This bill has been stalled by the Assembly for nearly two years. While they would impose public contract code on the rest of the AOC’s contracting practices, they gave an EXEMPTION to the AOC’s six billion dollars of construction activities.
Senate Bill 326 | SB326
The Yee Media Transparency Act of 2011 – Support
JCW Sponsors of this bill-
Michael Paul | Yen Interactive Media | Shadow Mountain Media & Entertainment
Same day access to court filings in California have been commonplace for well over a hundred years. It is only recently with the ability to scan and manage documents online that this same day access has been curtailed due to an inability of court clerks to pre-process the volumnous information for scanning purposes.
In essence, bureaucrats with grossly inefficient business processes based on a flawed information management strategy created the problem and are obligated to solve it. Some of the largest courts in the state have localized document scanning into fairly efficient case management systems and have no issue making documents available the same day they were filed. Other courts choose not to hire the personnel or make the necessary shift in schedules to effect same day availability.
A third group of courts employs systems so inefficient and unreliable that they can’t commit to being able to process documents the same week nevermind the same day. These courts have chosen to classify file stamped documents as pre-processed until such time that they get around to being able to process them. These courts typically, yet not always have a central data repository miles and miles from the courthouse that impacts document processing times dramatically.
A play on words doesn’t change the facts. These documents were available the same day before scanning technology became commonplace. Spending hundreds of millions of dollars on systems that slow the process down isn’t called efficiency in the real world, yet in the illusionary world of the judicial council and the AOC, imagineering efficiencies that don’t exist is covered up by new terms like pre-filing. SB326 is the medias way of holding bureaucrats accountable for the choices they make.
Next steps below
This bill is currently being held in the Assembly Appropriations Committee out of fear the Senate will kill it.