Synopsis: A merry-go-round with no beginning or end…

Posted on April 18, 2011

62


A synopsis of a daily journal article by the highly respected and retired San Mateo Judge and former Senator Quentin Kopp.

___________________________________________________
He starts out with Government Code 77001-

77001. The Judicial Council shall adopt rules, policies, or directives which establish a decentralized system of trial court management. These rules shall ensure provide, consistent with statute:

(a) Local authority and responsibility of trial courts to manage day-to-day operations.

(b) Countywide administration of the trial courts.

(c) The authority and responsibility of trial courts to manage all of the following, consistent with statute, rules of court, and standards of judicial administration:

(1) Annual allocation of superior court funding. , including policies and procedures about moving funding between functions or line items or programs.

(2) Local personnel plans, including the promulgation of personnel policies.

(3) (b) Processes and procedures to improve superior court operations and responsiveness to the public.

(4c) The trial courts of each county shall establish means of selecting presiding judges, assistant presiding judges, executive officers or court administrators, clerks of court, and jury commissioners.

(d) Trial Superior court input into the Judicial Council budget process.”

The above is what the code says. The AOC tried to get it amended to read the following:

Section 77001
77001. The Judicial Council shall adopt rules, policies, or directives which shall provide, consistent with statute:
(a) Annual allocation of superior court funding.
(b) Processes and procedures to improve superior court operations and responsiveness to the public.
(c) The means of selecting presiding judges, assistant presiding judges, executive officers or court administrators, clerks of court and jury commissioners.
(d) Superior court input into the Judicial Council budget process.

_____________________________________________________

He then describes that in 1997, the Legislature adopted the Lockyer-Isenberg Trial Court Funding Act, transferring funding for the courts from the counties to the state and how he and Calderon were both Senators when the law was initially passed and that the Legislature enacted Lockyer-Isenberg to ensure stable, adequate, and equitable funding for the state’s 58 independent trial courts and that he supported the bill. He or the legislature never dreamed the legislation would be used to convert administration of the courts to a statewide bureaucracy of over 1000 highly paid employees and that in fact, quite the opposite was true. The Legislature made clear its concern about bureaucratic encroachment into trial courts by encouraging the Judicial Council to adopt a Trial Court Bill of Financial Management Rights within a year and that the Council ignored it as being the impetus for AB1208.

He outlines the constitutional responsibilities of the Judicial council found in Article VI, Section 6(d) and outlines a 1960 amendment creates the position of “administrative director of the courts,” not an AOC bureaucracy.

He describes former Chief Justice Ronald M. Georges efforts to amend Article VI to give the Council additional powers and that each attempt failed because it was too much unchecked power in the hands of one person and that the AOC continues to lobby for additional powers and how if legislation fails, the AOC resorts to the Council’s rule-making authority and promulgating its plans in secret, including stripping bench officers of administrative powers and giving them to court execs.

He writes of Huffman’s control over the AOC and its committees spanning 14 years and “an unmistakable circular situation exists whereby AOC staff creates policies; the Council adopts them after planning sessions closed to the judicial branch, and the policies become goals.” Then according to the rules, “the Director’s charge is to accomplish the council’s goals…and he may use reasonable interpretation of Judicial Council policies to achieve the council’s goals…”

He opines that “Such a merry-go-round has no beginning, and apparently no end. There are no limits, no line in the sand for the AOC or the Council to respect.” He states that “The Council is free to create policies, turn them into goals, and instruct the AOC director to implement them by any means he deems legal.”

He describes how this astonishing situation is what produced the 3 bllion dollar CCMS debacle.

He describes the the enemy is the unfettered urge of an out-of-control bureaucracy to accumulate power and that AB 1208 restores balance. He says it does not intrude upon the Council’s legitimate rule-making or trial court funding authority and it will prevent the AOC from raiding the Trial Court Trust Funds, name their own courthouses and hire their own counsel. He speaks to the ferocity with which the AOC opposes AB1208 as a red flag that requires the legislature to step in.

_______________________________________________________

In other news our esteemed, reform-minded Chief Justice has re-appointed Shasta County Superior Court Judge Stephen H. Baker and Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Mary Ann O’Malley to the state Judicial Council for three-year terms beginning Sept. 15.

In these respects we can safely say “the same as it ever was”.