It’s time to restore balance

Posted on December 9, 2011

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“Yesterday is not ours to recover but tomorrow is ours to win or lose”

Lyndon B. Johnson

For well over a year Judicial Council Watcher has promoted an agenda of checks and balances on the leadership of a branch of government out of control. For some time now there has been this belief that a small group of appointed judges, justices and court executives that meets only about six times per year actually governed the branch.

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Today we know that is not the case. The judicial branch is governed by the Administrative Office of the Courts with depressing results and monumental waste and mismanagement. All of this waste has come at the cost of our trial courts and local court operations, yet we probably would have known little about this waste if it weren’t for three people named Paula, Jack and Michael, some 400 judges from around the state and a few legislators who agreed that there were big problems in Baghdad by the bay.

Against a backdrop of waste that continues to go unacknowledged by the judicial branch leadership, while a number of courts are already suffering with a product called CCMS V1, V2 and V3; while the vaporware known as V4 has spent some eight years in development with no end in sight; while preventive maintenance is deferred at less than two dollars per square foot so that the AOC can spend approximately seven dollars per square foot for remediation later; while California courthouses represent some of the costliest public buildings per square foot on the whole planet, the Alliance of California Judges has taken the gloves off in a fight for this states’ trial courts and released a report that is a stunning rebuke of Judicial Council and AOC mismanagement. That report, labeled “Restoring Balance” is a report that every judicial branch employee, state legislator and attorney must read.

We’ve been warning for some time that Tani’s effort to work with her BFF, the California Chamber of Commerce’s President Alan Zaremberg would be a fruitless effort. While the Chamber came out against AB1208 and called it a “job killer” they can’t seem to get much traction on that from their own membership. While the chamber sponsors meetings around the state to encourage others to lobby for more state revenue, the unacknowledged waste is causing that message to fall upon deaf ears in Sacramento.  We’ve stated that unless the Judicial Council and the AOC showed some real leadership and competent management that the Judicial branch should be preparing for further cuts to their operations,  legislative realignment or both. Around the halls of Sacramento, both is appearing a likely scenario.

While we don’t agree that the judicial branch should or could sustain further cuts, we wholly agree that funding to the trial courts directly should flow to the trial courts without further reduction. Each court has its own management already. To add several other layers of AOC management on top of existing court management represents all on its own a management overhead in excess of 20%, yet they contribute nothing to managing a single court.

Judicial Council Watcher supports the realignment of this states trial courts as well as the Judicial Council and the AOC and AB1208 is just a first step.  The charades and boondoggles that are being put on by the Judicial Council and the AOC must come to an end.