More Murky News Fallout – Judge McMaster resigns CJA

Posted on July 19, 2011


The contents of an email obtained by JCW from a long time reader-

(personal contact information was omitted) 

With all of what we know today, what would our judiciary look like and work like if the legislation Judge McMaster pointed out to the CJA (below) ever became law? I shudder at the thought.


Loren E. McMaster

Judge of the Superior Court (Ret.)

July 19, 2011

Stan Bissey
Executive Director CJA
San Francisco, CA

Via email only

Dear Stan-

I have received the dues statement for membership in the California Judges Association as a Retired Judge. I decline to join the CJA as a retired member. Unfortunately, the CJA has decided to become a tool of the AOC and the Judicial Council and has ceased to represent its members.

The Judicial Council under its prior head informally “delegated” virtually all of its responsibility, except for voting on a preordained result, to the AOC. The fact that there has never been a “no” vote on proposals of the AOC placed before the Judicial Council for action speaks for itself. Where was the “Voice of the Judiciary” when all of this was happening?

At the very time courtrooms were being closed and trial court staff members were being laid-off or furloughed, the Judicial Council, with nary a dissenting vote, adopted AOC’s proposals to twice give pay raises to AOC staff. Did CJA point out how out-of-touch the AOC and the Judicial Council were in approving such raises at that particular time? Did CJA officials publically urge a “no” vote by the Council?

Why did not CJA shed light on the AOC’s clandestine plan to amend to the point of emasculation Government Code section 77001, and completely alter the California judicial system, bringing all trial courts under the direct management by AOC? Did not the CJA leaders know that AOC staff had drafted such legislation and were intending to attach it to a Budget trailer bill, all without Judicial Council direction or contemporaneous approval? If so, why did they do nothing about it? If CJA leaders are still unaware of AOC staff’s plan to grossly inflate their powers at the expense of the trial courts, I am attaching the AOC proposed legislation in question.

CJA’s most recent position appears to be to close courtrooms so that the AOC will not have to absorb budget cuts as deep as it should. CJA President Judge Keith Davis was quoting as saying that “[cutting AOC projects] does not have the broad base support of the judiciary.” Such an assertion is remarkable given the contrary results of CJA’s own survey. Those results were reached notwithstanding an effort by the CJA leadership to skew the result by adding a “push-poll” question without the consent of the committee who was given the responsibility to draft the questions.

There is also the question of a CJA Board member sending a memorandum of his pro-AOC views with the clear implication that suchviews were that of CJA. The mild reaction to the misuse of what appeared to be CJA stationery is appalling. I doubt that a similar reaction would have been the result if the content of such a communication expressed pro-trial court views by demanding the AOC bureaucracy be cut before any courtrooms are closed.

This is a painful decision for me, and one that I have not undertaken lightly. I remember CJA and its Response to Criticism Committee coming rapidly to my defense when a group of people, unhappy with my upholding the domestic partnership legislation, sought to recall me from office. I have participated in two of CJA’s overseas trips and thoroughly enjoyed both of them. I usually have been pleased with CJA’s educational presentations and I have attended many of its conferences.

However, CJA has lost its way. It has become a sycophant of the AOC over the years and has lost its ability to firmly stand up for the interests of the trial courts and their judges, the constituency that CJA is supposed to represent. Given CJA’s self-perpetuating rules that effectively exclude fresh leadership, I do not see any change on the horizon.

Loren E. McMaster

Judge of the Superior Court (Ret.)



Government Code section 77001 is amended to read:

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.
(e) Equal access to justice throughout California utilizing standard practices and procedures whenever feasible.

Section 77202.1 is added to the Government Code to read:

77202.1. (a) As used in this section, “council” means the Judicial Council and “AOC” means the Administrative Office of the Courts.

(b) The council has the responsibility for managing the budget of the judicial branch.

(c) To assist the council in carrying out the responsibility described in subdivision (a), the following requirements and obligations shall apply:
(1) The council shall review the current operation of the courts to identify whether there may be efficiencies that could be implemented in a court or courts to more effectively or efficiently
utilize court resources. The council shall also identify opportunities that provide greater accountability and transparency for the use of judicial branch resources. The council shall report to the Budget Committees of the Senate and Assembly on any legislation needed to implement any
measures to promote greater efficiency, accountability, or transparency and may adopt by policy or directive any measure that is within the council’s rule-making authority.
(2) The executive officer of a superior court shall report to the council and the AOC on the fiscal condition of the court and cooperate with the council and the AOC on all matters as determined by the council.
(3) As a condition of receiving its annual allocation, every superior court shall submit to the AOC for approval, a complete and detailed budget at such time and in such form as may be prescribed by the AOC, setting forth all proposed expenditures and estimated revenues for the ensuing fiscal year. The budgets submitted by each superior court shall show the allocations of appropriations or other funds available for the fiscal year by quarter or other period of time as determined by the AOC. Expenditures may be classified by line item for each program in the detail prescribed by the AOC. The AOC may require each court to set aside a specified reserve for contingencies or other purposes. No superior court shall increase or decrease a line item in excess of 10 percent in a fiscal year without authorization from the AOC.

(4) After budgets are approved and allocations provided the superior courts, the Council may, in the interest of the judicial branch revise, alter, or amend the budget of superior courts by re-directing budget allocations among superior courts, upon notice to the affected courts and opportunity to report to the Council why such transfer should not occur.
(d) By January 1 of each year, the AOC shall provide to the Legislature and the Department of Finance summary and detailed information regarding the approved budgets of superior courts. The AOC shall provide updates to this information, upon request, to the Legislature or the Department of Finance.
(e) In addition to its other auditing authority, the AOC may examine all records, files, documents, books, papers, accounts and all financial affairs of any superior court. The superior court shall provide the AOC access to any records, files, documents, books, papers or accounts for the purpose of such examination, as well as, in the presence of the custodian or his or her deputy, to the cash drawers and cash in the custody of the superior court. The examination provided for by this subdivision shall occur as often as the Administrative Director of the Courts deems necessary, taking into consideration the work done by other auditors, including internal auditors.

Government Code section 77206.1 is amended to read:

77206.1. (a) The presiding judge, or the person designated by the presiding judge to authorize expenditures from the Trial Court Operations Fund or bank account established under section 77009(a), shall approve no claim, and shall authorize no warrant, for any obligation in excess of that authorized therefor in the budget approved by the Judicial Council.

(b) The Administrative Director of the Courts shall advise the Judicial Council, and the Judicial Council may appoint a person or entity to manage the expenditures from the Trial Court Operations Fund or bank account established under section 77009(a), of any court found to be in violation of this section or found to be in substantial or material noncompliance with the rules or directives regulating the budget and fiscal management of the superior courts adopted by the Judicial Council pursuant to Government Code section 77206, including but not limited to the rules and directives set forth in the Trial Court Financial Policies and Procedures Manual. 

(c) The executive officer of a superior court who incurs any expenditure in excess of the allocation or other provisions of the fiscal year budget as approved by the Judicial Council or as subsequently changed by or with the approval of the Judicial Council, is personally liable for the amount of the excess expenditures.”

Posted in: CJA Resignations