Credible organizational changes at the AOC? Are you kidding?

Posted on March 16, 2012


“It appears the Titanic’s deck chairs are in need of some reupholstering. Even though everyone else is asking for executive management heads to roll in a purge that would include my own, as the interim executive director I’ve chosen instead to redecorate and remodel and enhance those window dressings, much like I did in NCRO.”



From: Patel, Jody
Sent: Monday, March 12, 2012
To: AOC Users-All
Subject: Executive Office Update and VSIP Announcement



I am writing to provide you with important information on AOC executive team efforts to plan for anticipated budget reductions for the 2012-2013 fiscal year (FY) and move forward with organizational changes that will put us in the best position to address core priorities consistent with the goals of the Judicial Council. This message addresses the following key issues for the organization: (1) the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program (VSIP), (2) a layoff policy, (3) restructuring, and (4) budget reduction drills. These critical, interconnected issues will be addressed in parallel with the council’s consideration of recommendations from the Strategic Evaluation Committee and in anticipation of the appointment of a permanent Administrative Director of the Courts.


Voluntary Separation Incentive Program: As part of the budget reduction effort, a second round of the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program is under consideration. The first round, implemented in the last quarter of 2011, was instrumental in helping the Administrative Office of the Courts achieve its target reduction of $13.4 million for the current fiscal year (2011-2012) and will yield greater savings in 2012-2013. However, with that reduction increasing to at least $17.1 million for FY 2012-2013, we want to look at potential savings from a second VSIP for interested eligible AOC employees. Please review the attached memorandum, frequently asked questions and answers, and application form for details. Note that the time frame for applying for the program is shorter than for the previous cycle. This shortened time frame will enable us to incorporate projected savings into the budget planning process.


Layoff Policy: Layoffs are a last resort, but the magnitude of the fiscal challenges we are facing requires that they be considered as part of an overall budget strategy. The directors have discussed, and I have approved, the attached policy for implementing reductions in staffing. Having this type of policy in place is standard for large organizations. It ensures that employees have a clear understanding of the basic factors involved. Any layoffs will be considered in the context of personnel-related cost savings measures currently in place (i.e., furloughs), as well as other alternatives that have been proposed by management and staff over time, including the VSIP and reassignments.


Organizational Restructuring: Prompted in part by ongoing budget reductions of the past three years, but also by the acknowledgement that the AOC needs to take the opportunity to critically evaluate and improve how we are operating across the board, a number of organizational changes have been implemented in the past year. These changes include division mergers, several interdivisional unit transfers, and the consolidation or elimination of a number of executive and senior management positions. With input from division management and staff, this organizational assessment and restructuring is continuing.


Establishment of the Criminal Justice Court Services Office. Effective April 1, 2012, the existing Community Corrections Program will be reconfigured into the Criminal Justice Court Services Office to better manage the AOC’s efforts related to community corrections, the 2011 Criminal Justice Realignment, and other criminal justice activities. Several divisions within the AOC—including the Office of the General Counsel, the Office of Governmental Affairs, the Finance Division, and the Education Division—currently work on various aspects of Criminal Justice Realignment, and they will continue to do so. Placing the management of this multidivisional work in one place improves efficiencies and assistance to the courts. This restructuring will be accomplished using existing staff and resources. The Criminal Justice Court Services Office will be housed in the Executive Office under Shelley Curran.


The executive team is continuing to move forward with identifying agencywide priorities and how, in the context of the fiscal challenges and the increased scrutiny of the AOC, we can make changes to function more effectively and efficiently. As I indicated earlier, restructuring decisions will be considered in parallel with recommendations from the Strategic Evaluation Committee. Those recommendations will be received by the Judicial Council in late April. All proposed changes for the AOC will be considered in the context of what is needed to meet the needs of the Judicial Council, the courts, and the public.


Budget Reduction Drills: All of these efforts will feed into the budget reduction planning process and help us reach decision points on the FY 2012-2013 AOC budget. Under Zlatko Theodorovic’s leadership, the Finance Division is working with directors and staff to identify cost savings in division budget forecasts through the end of this fiscal year. This step and others will provide an accurate fiscal picture of year-end funds, which will help position us for the new fiscal year that begins on July 1.


These major efforts make clear the scale of the challenges that we will be addressing in the coming months. To make prudent, necessary changes in a timely way, we have increased the frequency of executive team meetings, convening on a weekly or biweekly basis to assess all options and make appropriate decisions. As Interim Administrative Director and Interim Chief Deputy Director, I and Curt Soderlund, along with the entire executive team, are committed to leading the AOC through this process as we continue our vital work in supporting California’s courts and justice system.


I appreciate your hard work and dedication to our mission and your support in making necessary changes for the future of the organization.




Jody Patel
Interim Administrative Director of the Courts

Judicial Council of California – Administrative Office of the Courts
455 Golden Gate Avenue
San Francisco, California 94102
916-263-1333, FAX 916-263-1966,


“Serving the courts for the benefit of all Californians”