ACJ – Chief calls out Lawmakers; Overholt steps down

Posted on February 9, 2012

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JCW is getting wind that indicates that the Alliance of California Judges is growing at an exponential rate due in part to the legislative momentum behind AB1208. If you’re a judge and would like to join, drop them a note at allianceofcaliforniajudges@gmail.com 

If you are a janitor or a justice or any job in between, feel free to help them out in the battle against free iPads, AOC paid lobbyists and other AOC influence peddling by making a sizable donation. Money makes the world go around. And if you’ve donated recently – please contemplate another donation to the Alliance of California Judges by going to their site. To get there, follow the link at the bottom of our left-hand navigation pane under “Put your money where your cause is”

Let’s also not forget the important voice of Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher who is running for Mayor of San Diego. He lent us a hand, let’s return the favor. http://nathanfletcher.com/

(A progressive organization such as JCW sponsoring Republican Nathan Fletcher for mayor? That’s right…. Being progressive is about having new ideas and in the case of Nathan Fletcher, strong ethical leadership is an added bonus.)

Thanks for your continued support,

Judicial Council Watcher

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February 9, 2012

Dear Members and Others:

By now most of you should have received a video link to a 19-minute speech delivered by the Chief Justice to a gathering of Presiding Judges and Court CEO’s in San Francisco last week.  For those who have not, we include the link.  A transcript of the Chief Justice’s remarks is attached to this email as a pdf.

The Alliance remains concerned that repeated and sustained attacks on the Legislative branch for supporting AB 1208 will further damage the courts’ ability to work cooperatively with the Legislature.  Many of our colleagues have pointed out that these attacks by Judicial Council members and AOC staff illustrate why many judges fear retaliation when taking a principled stand in opposition to branch spending decisions and policies.  The Alliance believes that a rational and measured approach must be taken in order to solve the financial crisis impacting our local courts.

We include for your information two articles related to the speech, one by Courthouse News reporter Maria Dinzeo and another by Daily Recorder reporter Cheryl Miller, who notes that a redacted version of the Chief’s speech is in circulation.

We also note today’s resignation of AOC interim Director, Ronald Overholt, and we provide a copy of his resignation letter.  His departure provides the Chief Justice an opportunity to engage in serious and systematic overhaul of the AOC.  We trust that his replacement will have a proven record of waste busting and downsizing organizations that have lost their way.

These are tough times for our branch.  A defect in the trial court funding statutes creates an inherent conflict.  This statutory error can only be corrected by the Legislature.  As long as this error is codified by statute, there will be inherent tension within the judiciary.  AB 1208 corrects this problem.  The time has come to end the effort to stop AB 1208 and to start a meaningful discussion among judges and legislators as to how best to implement this reform.

Again, we thank you for your support.

Directors,
Alliance of California Judges

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The Recorder’s Legal Pad Blog

Chief Justice Calls Out Lawmakers Over AB 1208 Shenanigans

SACRAMENTO – The battle in the state Assembly over AB 1208 may be over, but Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye isn’t walking away without a few parting shots. 

In a speech to court executives and presiding judges last week, the chief justice accused Assembly members of parroting “meritless, false claims” about the Judicial Council and the Administrative Office of the Courts during the AB 1208 floor debate on Jan. 30. 

(Here’s the entire 19-minute speech. The AB 1208 discussion starts around the 5:15 mark. The AOC has also released an abridged version of the speech.) 

Cantil-Sakauye also accused Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, of reneging on pre-vote assurances that members would be allowed “to vote their conscience, that it wouldn’t be the subject of political maneuvering.” The chief justice said she was disturbed to learn that, after only 32 Assembly members voted “aye” on the first roll call, Perez worked the floor to help bill author Charles Calderon find another nine votes to secure AB 1208’s passage. 

“It’s one thing to lose an argument based on merit. It’s another thing when the facts are not represented,” Cantil-Sakauye said.

The bill, she added, isn’t headed to the Senate “on its own legs.”

In response, Perez spokesman John Vigna would only say “The Chief Justice certainly has an opportunity to present her case to the Senate.”

Maybe the chief justice’s remarks were simply aimed at rallying her troops for the possible fight ahead in the Senate. And only she and the speaker really know what was promised or not promised in terms of pressure on Assembly members.

But on its face, the indignation comes across as a bit naïve, especially when you consider Cantil-Sakauye worked for two years in the Deukmejian administration. Anyone who watched the AB 1208 debate in the Assembly Judiciary Committee last May could see the speaker was behind this bill from the start – and that he was willing to use his political clout to move it. And as for the speaker working votes after the first roll call on AB 1208, that’s the sausage-making process that goes on in the Capitol. Love it or hate it, it happens all the time, particularly on bills that are a tough vote for lawmakers. 

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, has said he has no immediate plans to send AB 1208 to a committee hearing. In her speech, Cantil-Sakauye said she is grateful for the time-out and the time it gives the branch to focus on the budget. The judiciary, she said, is seeking another $100 million from the state’s general fund, $50 million in “redirections” from within the branch budget, $100 million from trial courts’ reserves “for [their] own needs” plus the $50 million in new fees included in the governor’s spending proposal. 

That’s a big wish list from a branch whose leader just poked the Assembly and its leader with a sharp verbal stick.

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From: Overholt, Ron
Sent: Thursday, February 09, 2012 10:24 AM
To: AOC JC Internal Committee Members
Subject: Resignation as Interim Administrative Director of the Courts

Members of the Judicial Council:

I am writing to let you know that I am resigning as Interim Administrative Director of the Courts, effective immediately, with plans to retire later this spring. Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye and I have discussed my decision and an expedited process is under way to appoint a new interim director.
.
As a judicial administrator for more than 30 years, as Chief Deputy Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) for 11 years, and Interim Administrative Director of the Courts since September, it has been my privilege to lead and work with the outstanding professionals and committed public servants of the AOC and the judicial branch.
.
For the past three years, the economic environment we have been operating in has created unprecedented challenges for the state and prompted a reassessment of resources and priorities for all areas of government. For the AOC, this has included significant ongoing budget reductions and internal reorganization efforts. In the anxiety-generating climate of this fiscal crisis, the AOC’s role in serving the council to advance access to justice on a statewide basis has unfairly become an easy target. Every organization has room for improvement, and where merited, the AOC has taken corrective action and is continuing to do so. Where issues raised have been without merit, we have worked hard to correct misinformation. AOC directors, managers, and staff have devoted incredible time and effort on a daily basis to do more with less and deliver critical services to the courts and the public.
.
My decision is based on a number of factors. Among them is that the position of Administrative Director of the Courts has become a lightning rod for controversy, impacting the focus on budget discussions, Judicial Council governance of the judicial branch, and the AOC itself.  By making this difficult choice, I hope that my decision will help refocus attention on the critical issues at hand—budget restoration, the future of the branch, and the stability of the AOC.
.
I am proud to have served in a leadership role in the judicial branch as a superior court administrator, member of the Judicial Council, and chief executive of this outstanding public service organization. I am proud of all that the Judicial Council, the courts, and the AOC have accomplished together to benefit our justice system and the people we serve
.
I will work closely with the Chief Justice and the new interim director to ensure the best possible transition.  Going forward, the AOC directors and staff will continue to provide their strongest support to you, and demonstrate, through their great work, the unique value the AOC brings to the judicial branch.
.
Sincerely,
Ron
Ronald G. Overholt
Interim Administrative Director of the Courts
Judicial Council of California – Administrative Office of the Courts
455 Golden Gate Avenue
San Francisco, CA  94102-3688
415-865-4235, FAX 415-865-4244, ron.overholt@jud.ca.gov
“Serving the courts for the benefit of all Californians”
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Added by JCW

Contra Costa Times

State courts’ top bureaucrat resigns

By Josh Richman, Bay Area News Group
Posted:   02/09/2012 12:38:48 PM PST
Updated:   02/09/2012 12:54:11 PM PST

A former Alameda County Superior Court executive from Danville resigned his post as the California court system’s interim top bureaucrat yesterday, months after an investigative report detailed lavish spending on food, drink and hotels even while cash-strapped courts cut their services.

Ronald Overholt, 59, submitted his resignation to California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye on Wednesday. The Judicial Council is meeting in closed session today to choose a new interim director for the Administrative Office of the Courts while the national search for a permanent director continues; Overholt said he’ll stick around long enough to ensure a smooth transition.

“My decision is based on a number of factors,” Overholt said in a news release issued this morning. “Among them is that the position of Administrative Director of the Courts has become a lightning rod for controversy, impacting the focus on budget discussions, Judicial Council governance of the judicial branch, and the AOC itself. By making this difficult choice, I hope that my decision will help refocus attention on the critical issues at hand-budget restoration, the future of the branch, and the stability of the AOC.”

Cantil-Sakauye, in the same release, called Overholt’s decision understandable but unfortunate, and said his departure “is a great loss not only for the AOC but also for the state judicial branch. But we respect his judgment that a transition is necessary at thistime for him and for the court system he has served so well.”

She said his service since last July as the Administrative Office of the Courts’ interim director was “exemplary and has served to enhance access to justice and public trust and confidence in our justice system.”

San Diego’s Channel 10 news, an ABC affiliate, reported in November that Overholt and his predecessor, longtime AOC Director William Vickrey, since 2009 had “been spending tax dollars on steaks, martinis and hotel stays” with trips to Vail, Colo.; Charlotte; Boston; Santa Fe, N.M.; Denver; Indian Wells; and Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, courts across the state have had to cut workforces and service hours in order to stay afloat amid deep budget cuts.

This sparked some lawmakers’ ire. “Spending hundreds of dollars on steak and lobster and alcoholic beverages is just wrong and it’s out of touch and it’s got to stop,” Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego, told Channel 10.

Fletcher has been on the warpath against the AOC as recently as last week for what he says are excessive construction costs, salaries and pensions as well as a statewide court computer system for which costs have spiraled out of control:

In today’s news release, Overholt noted that the past three budget years have “created unprecedented challenges for the state and prompted a reassessment of resources and priorities for all areas of government” and led to deep cuts and reorganizations at the AOC.

“In the anxiety-generating climate of this fiscal crisis, the AOC’s role in serving the council to advance access to justice on a statewide basis has unfairly become an easy target,” he said.

“Every organization has room for improvement, and where merited, the AOC has taken corrective action and is continuing to do so. Where issues raised have been without merit, we have worked hard to correct misinformation. AOC directors, managers, and staff have devoted incredible time and effort on a daily basis to do more with less and to deliver critical services to the courts and the public.”

Overholt was the AOC’s chief deputy director for 11 years before taking the interim director’s job last summer. Before that, he was the Alameda County Superior Court’s executive officer for nine years and it’s second-in-command for three years; earlier still, he worked in the San Diego County Superior Court.