And this is why we call them Pravda & The Ministry of Truth

Posted on April 5, 2012

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The AOC employs a little over a hundred people to shape, massage and distribute information that shows them always in the best favorable light. A quarter of the first floor is a production print shop larger than any Kinkos. A portion of the basement, third and fifth floors are used as television studios. If you’ve ever seen the movie good morning vietnam, reflect for a moment on the news censor twins and you’ll get a better idea of how the AOC manages information. And you wanted to trust them with CCMS?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ministry_of_Truth

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April 4, 2012
Dear Members and Others:
Most of you receive a daily email blast from the AOC entitled “Enews,” the apparent purpose of which is to provide judges with hyperlinks to timely articles and editorials of interest to the bench. Experience shows that the articles and editorials included are seldom critical of the AOC or Judicial Council, and when there are statements of fact or opinion that differ from the AOC’s views, they are sometimes “augmented” with “editor’s notes” that reflect the AOC’s viewpoints.
In the past, we have requested that the AOC include specific articles and opinion pieces which do not fit the AOC narrative, with little success. We often send emails to our members and others that include these “rejected” pieces. Our view is that judges are able to sort through these various publications and form their own conclusions about the facts and determine for themselves whether the authors or the AOC have their facts straight.
With that as background, we forward two opinion pieces that were published today in the Bakersfield Californian and the Stockton Record regarding the mismanagement of judicial resources on the CCMS project. It is important for judges to appreciate that the persistent failure of the Judicial Council and AOC to address the many concerns brought to them over the years by judges and others regarding CCMS has not only greatly depleted our trial court trust funds, but it has seriously damaged the ability of the branch to obtain a restoration of funding for the trial courts. A restoration of funding for the judicial branch can only occur once legislators, and the taxpayers to whom they answer, are satisfied that the money appropriated to the trial courts will be carefully managed to keep courtrooms open and provide services to the public.
We thank you for your continued support of our efforts to help accomplish that goal.
Directors, Alliance of California Judges
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Wednesday, Apr 04 2012 05:00 AM

LOIS HENRY: At last, plug pulled on court computer system

By Lois Henry

Yes, the giant, money-sucking statewide court computer system that never fully got off the ground in spite of its half-a-billion-dollar launch pad appears to have been killed.

But the fight is far from over.

That’s the message Kern County Superior Court Judge David Lampe wants to get out after last month’s long overdue death of the California Case Management System, expected to cost $2 billion (!) at full roll out.

Lampe is one of the co-founders of the Alliance of California Judges, which has been fighting for the better part of three years to loosen the stranglehold of an out-of-control bureaucracy and return greater control and funding certainty to local courts.

That out-of-control bureaucracy is the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), which operates under the auspices of the state Judicial Council and was created a little more than a decade ago as a centralized state agency to manage county trial court funding as a means to cut costs and find greater efficiencies.

Yeah, not so much, as it turns out.

Other than reporting to the Judicial Council, which is not an elected governing body, the AOC reports to no one.

Lots of money, a vague management mission and no oversight. You can guess the outcome.

The AOC’s body count and budget ballooned, going from fewer than 100 employees and less than $100 million in 1997 to nearly 1,000 people and $400 million today.

As the agency grew, its projects have swelled as well.

A planned courthouse in Delano is estimated to cost $1,041 per square foot.

Its maintenance (janitorial services) contracts are so over budget the AOC has had to dip into construction money to keep current, according to a report last fall by the Alliance of California Judges.

Its judicial education division employs 100 people — one full timer for every 17 trial judges — and has an $8 million annual budget.

“We do the teaching,” Lampe said. “The judges teach the classes. And we do it for free.”

The grandaddy of all bloated projects, the statewide court computer system, went from an estimated $260 million to $2 billion.

At one point in 2009, the AOC, with the Judicial Council’s blessing, mandated that courthouses statewide close one day a month in order to “save” $90 million that it turned around and spent on the failed computer system.

So much for the public’s right of access to its courts.

We spent a half billion (not including what we shoveled out for audits and reports showing the painfully obvious, that computer system was bunk) before the Judicial Council finally pulled the plug late last month.

Well, Lampe said, it’s unclear exactly how dead the project is as the Judicial Council is still budgeting money for ongoing support to some counties that implemented interim systems. The cost of that support is exorbitant as well, according to the Alliance report, more than $40 million a year including $7 million a year for just one system deployed in Fresno County.

Kern County has long had its own computer system for helping judges and clerks track cases. It was developed locally, according to Superior Court Administrator Terry McNally.

And while it’s main function is as a work processing system for the courts, the data is also used for the court’s public website, a very handy tool. It’s not perfect, but believe me, it’s better than a lot of counties.

Makes you wonder how innovative each court system could have been with just a fraction of that half billion if they’d been given that money directly.

“Now, that money is gone,” Lampe said with a look of resignation.

The best we can do is fix, and by that I do mean neuter, the system that spawned the AOC in the first place.

To that end, the Alliance has been successful in getting AB1208 passed by the Assembly. The bill is now cooling its heels in the Senate Rules Committee.

The bill would slightly alter the law that gave budgeting oversight to the Judicial Council by stating that 100 percent of the money the Legislature appropriates to the trial courts each year be given to the trial courts.

Right now, the law doesn’t mandate that 100 percent of that money go to trial courts. The Judicial Council (and AOC) has discretion over more than 60 percent. And we can see how well that worked — NOT.

Beyond AB1208, Lampe said the Judicial Council should do three things:

* See if it can get any money back from the statewide court computer system debacle.

* Cease all funding for courthouse construction and move that money to existing court operations.

* Take a long, hard look at the AOC budget.

And get out the chain saw.

Because I’m willing to bet there’s more than a little dead wood to be trimmed out of the AOC.

Opinions expressed in this column are those of Lois Henry, not The Bakersfield Californian. Her column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. Comment at http://www.bakersfield.com, call her at 395-7373 or e-mail lhenry@bakersfield.com

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High-tech misadventure

State is guilty of wasting $500M in ill-advised court computer fiasco
April 04, 2012 12:00 AM

Two weeks ago, a frustrated state Supreme Court chief justice was before the Legislature essentially begging for more money.

Courtrooms and clerks’ offices in 29 of the state’s 58 counties already had been closed. More closures are likely, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said.

She’s right. The courts, like many vital functions of government, have been severely cut because of the state’s financial woes.

But on the heels of that plea comes word that a $2 billion decade-long upgrade to the court’s computer system is a flop and will be scuttled.

It was a case of overpromising – in this case bringing the state’s 500 court facilities under a single computing system – and underperforming.

That failure undermines Cantil-Sakauye’s plea for more operational funds for the court.

The unified computing system was held out as bringing the courts into the 21st century, making it possible for courts to communicate, allowing lawyers to file documents from anywhere and allowing judges and law enforcement instant information about warrants, restraining orders and other real-time information helpful to investigations.

But there were constant problems with the project, and as the problems multiplied, pressure to pull the plug built. Finally, last month, a $200,000 consultant’s report declared the system ready for a final push. But that push, the consultant said, could cost about $1.3 billion more.

That was it. The governing body of the courts stopped the project last week, succumbing to political pressure and financial realities.

An additional $9 million will be spent to figure out what can be saved.

Seven of the state’s 58 counties did end up with better computer systems, but beyond that it’s likely all the state will end up with is thousands of lines of computer code that individual counties may be able to use but that won’t allow court computers statewide to communicate.

Wasting taxpayers’ money is always bad.

To keep spending on a questionable system at a time of severe financial stress is imprudent.