Tani’s Civics Lesson: The responsibility of the legislature

Posted on December 16, 2011

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Tani’s Civics Lesson: The responsibility of the legislature

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We can grasp that it is probably a bit difficult to understand the responsibility of a legislature when your family roots are in a country with a propped up dictator and a puppet regime of loyal supporters. No, we’re not talking about the Judicial Council, though it could be inferred…. we’re talking about the government of the Philippines as little Tani was growing up.

For quite a few years now, the Judicial Council has spewed forth an argument of separation of powers as the primary reason that AB1208 should go down in flames. The argument pre-supposes that it is the responsibility of the Judicial Council to govern and fund the branch and its activities.

Funny thing: You don’t hear any executive branch agencies trying to make that lame argument and here’s why…..

It is the legislature that is responsible for making the laws. It is the legislature that is ultimately responsible for funding all California government activity. It is the responsibility of the executive branch to try to enforce those laws and carry out the legislatures mandate. It is the responsibility of the judicial branch to adjudicate cases before them.

Pretty clear lines to this author but let’s dig a little deeper…..

California is a democratic republic. Democratic republics typically have three branches of government and those three branches of government have a natural tension between them with their individual mandates and responsibilities. The Judicial Council is trying to convince others that their role is to usurp the role of the executive branch by self-enforcement of laws upon themselves. Yet has anyone been prosecuted for unlawfully hiring unlicensed contractors? There is no judicial exception here, so how has the judicial branch responded to their claimed executive powers of enforcing these laws upon themselves?

It’s simple: They have chosen to abdicate that responsibility while claiming that it is their responsibility alone.

How about court funding? The Judicial Council, a body that meets only about six times per year with rubber stamps in hand is trying to convince others that it is the responsibility of the council alone to self-determine legislative priorities for the branch itself.

It claims that legislative priorities is a role and exclusive purview of their own ‘internal legislators’ appointed to the council by the ‘executive’ – the appointees of the ‘executive’ chief justice herself. They don’t make laws, they make rules of the court that they want everyone to believe have the same force as any law, yet no one exists to enforce many of them.

Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos would be proud of Tani’s accomplishments in that respect because when they were in power leading the government of the Philippines, it is the exact same thing that they did.

The ‘executive’ turns a blind eye towards impropriety when she took no action whatsoever against her own staff for designating and then continuing to use these unlicensed contractors for another eighteen months after she assumed the office of the chief justice. I suppose she would (and is) arguing that it is her responsibility alone to enforce these laws. The ‘legislators’ that sit on the council making rules of court, determining the ‘legislative priorities’ of building overpriced courthouses, purchasing and paying for two hundred to two thousand dollar lightblubs and spending eight years developing and funding the vaporware that is CCMS V4 for the most part have remained silent on the issue of the abdication of responsibility of the ‘executive’ to enforce the laws or the rules of court.

Caught with their underwear around their ankles with a staggering six hundred and fifty million dollar cut in their funding stream, both the ‘executive’ chief justice and the ‘legislators’  on the council have prioritized $1,900.00 per square foot courthouses and pausing the development of vaporware by fully funding its development for another year. Courthouses throughout the state have closed down because courts cannot afford to keep them open and more closures are on the way. Others have cut back their hours of operation and yet others have conducted mass layoffs at the cost of the public.  And the proposal on the table is to oppose AB1208 and continue to do more of the same and blame the legislature in Sacramento, instead of the ‘legislators’ on the council.

Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos would be proud of Tani’s accomplishments in that respect because when they were in power leading the government of the Philippines, they robbed the treasury to purchase most of the land in Silicon Valley just north of the Great America theme park. As for Tani, she made her big investments in unlicensed contractors and a consulting company with an abysmal track record of  actually delivering functional software development projects. 

All of this nonsense has come at the cost of the people of the state of California, this states 58 trial courts and the independence of the judiciary itself because if you want to get along with proper funding, temporary judges being assigned to your court for eighteen years or if you want to sit in a shiny new office in a shiny new half billion dollar new courthouse, you must be willing to go along and turn a blind eye.

Chief Justice George was the architect of a shadow government that managed to usurp the roles of the other two branches of government and therefore, there exists no checks and balances. The natural tension between the legislative branch, the executive branch and the judicial branch simply doesn’t exist and therefore, there are no checks and balances in California government on the judicial branch, whereas there are checks and balances placed upon the other two branches of government by California’s judicial branch.

Californians need that tension of checks and balances between their branches of government and a first start, the very first salvo in this fight for checks and balances is for the state legislature to clarify their responsibility and legislative priorities over the judicial branch’s budget. AB1208 goes a long way in that regards but the legislature needs to dictate to the judicial branch their legislative priorities and let the judicial branch do what it is supposed to do and interpret them by funding the trial courts.

The executive branch should do the same by taking over courthouse ownership, operations and maintenance by putting it all under DGS.  This would reduce the pressure put on the courts and the judges of this state to impose uniform bail or uniform penalties or surcharges and permit them the independent judicial discretion they need to independently operate the courts.  The executive branch should also enforce the laws of this state with respect to judicial branch employees because it’s their job.

Maybe you share some of these observations, maybe not. But the status quo is no longer suitable for the people of the state of California and that natural tension between branches of government need to be restored.

AB1208 as written is but a baby step in that direction in that restates the responsibility of the branches of government in the state of California and removes the usurpation of authority made by those who are accountable to no one.

This concludes Tani’s civics lesson for today, unless you have something to add….

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