Judicial Council Democracy – Changes?

Posted on April 13, 2011


Judicial Council Watcher has established a few trusted contacts in certain larger trial courts and communicates freely with a precious few judicial branch retirees who also wish to see and promote change. We would like to develop contact and communications with others throughout the California Court system and we keep those contacts confidential. Just don’t use judicial branch resources to contact us for your own protection.

We’re very grateful to all of those who make an effort to keep us abreast of the issues we cover from the seats and views that they occupy. We get a wide range of email, most of it of a positive nature. We appreciate you letting us know how we’re doing and how you believe other parties are doing. We do have a few detractors because they know we’re gunning for them and they know we’re primarily gunning to change their corrupt systems.

We have no animosity towards court employees or AOC employees. We view them all as our friends and associates in the league of citizens. We want to get a sense of how the issues affect everyone, from the counter clerk to the presiding judge. Your email and those communications become essential parts of our reporting. Your voice in my private message window or email becomes our collective voice in posts made here.

So its no surprise to us when we hear a range of response with respect to the recent positions taken by the California Judges Association. In some sense, we believe that the California Judges Association may have creatively reached out to us as to avoid becoming the media bullseye that the Judicial Council and the AOC have become. After what we believe was a series of serious mis-steps by CJA leadership regarding a press release that just didn’t jive with the survey results, a kinder gentler release was made and an effort was made to reach out to us and explain this position. We respect that and we respect the tone of the latest press release, though actions my friends speak much louder than your words.

Maybe of the AOC and Judicial Council made a similar effort to reach out and explain things and start answering the “Ask Why?” questions instead of hiding behind this veil of “that is not an administrative record that we can release to you” then they wouldn’t be a target and we wouldn’t have a reason to exist. We’re growing weary of the lack of information forthcoming from the JC/AOC. Specifically, their inability to answer many of the questions we’ve posed here while pretending none of these serious breaches of the public trust ever happened. Specifically, those breaches of the public trust that violate the law.

The AOC fired the people that exposed the crimes. They embraced those who committed those crimes with the full support of a George appointed, Huffman/Vickrey vetted Judicial Council.

This is why a democratic Judicial Council is essential and not just a 27 member puppet show. As long as you continue to deny accountability to the public you serve we will be perpetually turning up the heat. We know we’re not alone in turning up the heat. Others have pledged to do the same. We owe this to the public that we serve. What do you owe that same public you serve ?

In other news reports, the emphasis was made on what the California Judges Association did not do. They did not take a position on AB1208. When someone from this organization contacted me about a recent release that was made, we took a look at it and it’s certainly not a case of “the same that it ever was”. The reason the CJA did not take a position was because there were two passionate sides in the debate over AB1208 with many members vowing to drop their membership if a stand was made in the opposite direction. Frankly, we believe the argument to be more of a case of “Who is willing to acknowledge we have a serious problem” vs “Who is part of the problem” but we’ll give these judges the benefit of the doubt – for the sake of this post.

So exactly what did or will the CJA do? Well, they didn’t go far enough but it’s at least a change of position. We can respect that. 800 judges from across California submitted 120 pages of comments. From those many comments, the CJA developed a few key positions that just two months ago, we’re told they would have never considered. The following is taken from that press release to be followed by a general discussion on these issues. We want you to participate in this important discussion.

In the AOC Report to CJA members, administrators expressed Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye’s keen interest in the survey results that generated not only a statistical overview, but 120 plus pages of comments regarding the future of judicial branch governance. The CJA Board’s review of the survey resulted in the following actions: The membership will remain neutral on Assembly bill 1208 due to the divided views revealed in the survey. The board expressed its gratitude to Assembly Member Calderon for introducing this legislation and spurring this important debate. Upon review of the over 120 pages of comments from over 800 judges, the CJA board resolved to use the comments to respond to the Chief Justice’s call for specific suggestions for changes to branch governance. CJA intends to approach their membership with the following proposals to enhance branch governance.


1. In order to improve the Judicial Council’s oversight of the AOC, change the charge of the Accountability and Efficiency Committee to include oversight and review of any part of the AOC that the committee deems fit. The committee should have its own staff separate from the AOC. Finally, the Judicial Council should annually approve a specific line item AOC budget.


2. The Judicial Council should promulgate new rules defining the relationship between the Judicial Council and the AOC on the one hand and the various courts on the other. Specifically, whenever statewide initiatives are implemented the consent of the affected courts must be obtained and a detailed Memorandum of Understanding delineating the rights and responsibilities of the parties must be agreed upon between the parties.


3. Change the method for choosing members of the Judicial Council to ensure broad democratic representation including regional and court size representation and give trial courts input in that selection process. .


With respect to item number one, given your choice of two candidates, one being Michael Paul and the other being John Judnick as dedicated staff, who do you believe will get more done to get to the bottom of the issues at hand? Who do you believe, out of these two choices, our chief justice would choose? Is that good enough to make this committee credible? What form should this committee take? Should it continue to be made up of appointees who won’t consider the truth or should it also be staffed by critics who demand accountability? (Think about this in these terms – the Assembly Committee on accountability and administrative review relies on a former investigative reporter – not a ‘cleaner’.)

With respect to item two, that spans a myriad of issues. Some courts have already used these MOU’s with borg executive officers to usurp authority previously the purview of the trial courts. So how do you get the cat back into the bag so to speak?

With respect to item number three: Really, only the voting members who are constitutionally called for need to be of broad democratic representation. They’re the people with the juice.

In short, we don’t believe that these modest proposals go far enough or get there fast enough, so we remain avid supporters of AB1208 and encourage the chairs to push the bill forward without further delay.

When you consider the uncounted ACJ membership that are not CJA members who never participated in this survey, reality may become starkly different for the JC/AOC. We would encourage the ACJ membership to ask the same questions that the CJA asked, maybe make your comments of a more public nature and release them to us and other media. We would encourage you to omit the push question. Then we can re-tally results and get a more representative view of the real voice of the judiciary as opposed to just a sliver of it or one that is watered down. We feel that there are lots of serious issues exposed in those 120 pages of comments from those 800 or so judges.

The public deserves to know what the judiciary sees through the judiciaries own eyes. The media deserves to know the concerns that they need to act upon. Sunshine serves as the best of disinfectants in the public policy arena. Help us help you.

Another angle on the story from Courthouse News. Chief committed to control of admin, opposed to AB1208.