Trial Court Judges as The Enemy to Defeat?

Posted on February 24, 2012

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It’s not common knowledge that when it comes to budgetary concerns internal to the judicial branch,  that the AOC, the judicial council, the Supreme Court and all of the courts of appeal (ie the original state court system) are lumped together as one budgetary line item group and share most of the same information technology infrastructure.  The trial courts are another budgetary line item group and don’t share the same information technology infrastructure, except as it relates to the AOC contracted CCTC.

We’ve been looking for an explanation regarding what is appearing to be an us and them mentality, where it appears one group overwhelmingly supports the defeat of AB1208 (the original state court system) and the other group overwhelmingly supports the passage of AB1208 (the trial courts) While we’re still not sure about the appellate positions being clear enough to delineate due to quite a bit of open distaste for the AOC amongst appellate courts, it does seem that most of the dog and pony show mustered against AB1208 are a combination of the old state court system and a few supporters for AB1208 in the trial courts. The difference seems to be if one was a judicial council appointee or not – mostly represented by the chosen few. A brief analysis of some of the documents produced thus far seem to suggest and better define the two factions for the most part.

Following is a JC update from Jody Patel and an article about one of the many ‘villes to get a new courthouse.

From: Patel, Jody
Sent: Tuesday, February 21
To: AOC JC Internal Committee Members
Subject: Judicial Council/AOC Update

 Good afternoon, Members of the Judicial Council:

I appreciate your support and confidence as I engage in this executive transition for the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC). Having just completed my first week in my new interim role, and while many of the major issues are in process with multiple conference calls that include a number of you, I do want to continue to provide this brief overview of ongoing activities for the AOC.

 AOC Executive and Management Teams Meetings. I want to thank Justice Miller, Justice Hull, Judge Rosenberg, and Alan Carlson for making time to meet with AOC directors, managers, and supervisors last Thursday. The management team convened in person and by phone and appreciated the opportunity to hear from and ask questions of the council members and me. Issues addressed included judicial branch governance, recruitment of a permanent Administrative Director, budget, the process for receiving the Strategic Evaluation Committee’s report, and improving branchwide communications. Statements by Justice Miller, Justice Hull, Judge Rosenberg, and Alan Carlson that this is a team undertaking for the Chief Justice, the Judicial Council, and the AOC, as well as the candid expectations and information they shared, helped frame the future changes we need to make in a positive and constructive light. I have received a great deal of positive feedback from everyone.

 New Judicial Council Meeting Date. You should have received notice earlier today advising of a business meeting scheduled for Tuesday, March 27, focusing on planning for CCMS and judicial branch technology.

 State of the Judiciary Address. The Chief Justice will deliver the State of the Judiciary address to a joint session of the California Legislature in Sacramento on Monday, March 19. She will deliver the address at 4:00 p.m. in the Assembly chambers, and a meet and greet with legislators and guests will follow immediately from 4:30–6:00 p.m. in the second-floor rotunda of the State Capitol.

Legislative Hearings

  • Joint Assembly Hearing on the California Court Case Management System: Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 4 on State Administration and Budget Subcommittee No. 5 on Public Safety will hold a joint hearing on the California Court Case Management System on Wednesday, March 14. The judicial branch, the Bureau of State Audits, and the California Technology Agency will participate.
  • Impacts of Judicial Branch Budget Cuts: The Senate Judiciary Committee is tentatively planning to hold a hearing on Monday, April 16, on the impacts of budget reductions to the courts. It is expected that panels of judges, court executives, practitioners, court employee organizations, and others will present testimony. There will be opportunity for public comment as well.

 Trial Court Statutory Changes for Efficiencies and Savings. As chairs of the council’s Trial Court Presiding Judges and Court Executives Advisory Committees, respectively, Judge Rosenberg and Alan Carlson met with our Office of Governmental Affairs (OGA) to discuss a process for input and review on statutory efficiencies we will be seeking. Next steps: The suggestions for operational efficiencies/cost savings/new revenue (other than civil fee revenue) have been sent to all presiding judges (PJs) and court executive officers (CEOs) seeking their feedback. Judge Rosenberg and Alan will appoint a Trial Court Efficiencies Working Group composed of PJs and CEOs to review and narrow down the proposals. Comments will then be sought from an ad hoc group of representatives from committees such as the Criminal Law Advisory Committee, Civil and Small Claims Advisory Committee, etc., before final consideration by the council for submission as proposed legislation. 

Facilities Maintenance Vendor Litigation. The AOC sued two of its three statewide facilities maintenance vendors on December 7, 2009, for breach of contract and statutory violations of the California Contractors’ State License Law (CSLL); both lawsuits are filed in the Superior Court of San Francisco County.  The first of these lawsuits—AOC v. Jacobs Facilities Inc. (JFI), Jacobs Project Management, and Jacobs Engineering Group, the corporate parent—is scheduled for trial on February 27, 2012.  The case is bifurcated with the February 27 trial limited to whether the contracting Jacobs entity, JFI, was properly licensed under the CSLL at all times it was providing services under its contract with the AOC. If not licensed, all billings for services provided from contract inception in April 2006 until November 2009 totaling approximately $22.8 million are subject to disgorgement under California Business and Professions Code section 7031.  The AOC is represented by Sedgwick LLP attorneys Marilyn Klinger and Jonathan Rodriguez.  The Jacobs defendants are represented by Keesal, Young & Logan attorneys Albert Peacock and David Piper.  The second vendor lawsuit—AOC v. Aleut Global Solutions, LLC (AGS)—involves approximately $18.5 million and is scheduled for trial on August 6, 2012.  The AOC and AGS are engaged in mediation of their dispute with retired federal magistrate Wayne Brazil as the mediator.  AOC’s Office of the General Counsel is managing the litigation in consultation with the council’s Litigation Management Committee.

 Groundbreaking Ceremonies for New Court Facilities. The groundbreaking ceremony for the new Banning Justice Center, midcounty region, Riverside County, was held today. Justice Miller represented the Judicial Council. Justice Baxter will attend the ceremony for Tulare’s new South County Justice Center in Porterville on Thursday. The attached links provide overviews of both projects:  http://www.courts.ca.gov/facilities-riverside-midcounty.htm and http://www.courts.ca.gov/facilities-tulare.htm.

 Advisory Committees/Task Forces/Working Groups

  • Center for Judicial Education and Research (CJER) Governing Committee. The committee approved the new Education Plan for July 1, 2012-June 30, 2014. The new plan contains over 500 separate items and products for all of the judicial branch audiences. The committee also discussed its approved annual agenda, focusing on the effort to review the current new judge education model. Revisions to the Serranus website were demonstrated for members as well as a real-time simulation of the new WebEx online conferencing tool. A brief but positive report on the Education Division’s efforts to expand judicial and administrative education regionally and locally was presented.
  • Mental Health Issues Implementation Task Force. This task force, chaired by Judge Richard J. Loftus, Jr., had its first meeting to begin identifying which recommendations from the final report of the Task Force for Criminal Justice Collaboration on Mental Health Issues fall under Judicial Council purview and to consider potential branch implementation activities.

 From the Chief Justice’s Calendar. The Chief Justice met with Senator Noreen Evans to discuss judicial branch budget and legislative priorities. The Chief presided over the Commission on Judicial Appointments hearing confirming the Honorable Kathleen O’Leary as Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division Three (Santa Ana).

Education Programs. The following programs were held over the past two weeks: Criminal Law Institute, Costa Mesa (for judges and judicial officers); Local Court Education: Ethics for Judicial Attorneys (for  appellate attorneys); LPS Holds and Conservatorships Overview (for judges, judicial officers, and attorneys); Relative Placements and Delinquency Case Law Update (for juvenile court judges and family law attorneys); Under the Microscope: A look at Clinical Issues and Effective Assessments in Guardianship Investigations (for specialty courts in probate and mental health); Qualifying Ethics (for judges and judicial officers); Basic Spousal Support & Attorney Fees and Costs (for judges and judicial officers); Postrelease Community Supervision Revocation Hearings Under Penal Code 3450–3468 (for judges, judicial officers and attorneys); National Conference of Appellate Court Clerks Training (for family law/juvenile court judges and commissioners, probation staff, and family court attorneys).

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Dear Members and Others,

We forward a commentary from public television station KCET in which a visiting professor at Loyola Law School, Jessica Levinson, characterizes the Chief Justice’s response to the passage of AB 1208 as leaving “something to be desired.”

A bill designed by judges to correct an imbalance in trial court funding should not be characterized as a “hill,” as though judges were an enemy to be defeated. No one wins that fight.

Surely we can all agree to have a respectful conversation about AB 1208 and the future of the judicial branch. The Alliance of California Judges agrees with Professor Levinson that, “A more desirable path would include Cantil-Sakauye coming to a détente with lower court judges, upset about budgetary decisions made by the Judicial Council.” We remain prepared to follow that path as long as judges, court employees and legislators are included in the discussion.

Directors, Alliance of California Judges

Will California’s judicial & legislative branches please stop fighting? (KCET)