Diversity, Access & Fairness? You’re kidding, right?

Posted on July 10, 2012

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 So you’re probably asking yourself about now – where is all of the suck-up brown noser support for the mismanaged AOC and Judicial Council that shuns the SEC report?

It’s on its way but it is being carefully repackaged in irony.

You see, the AOC didn’t employ many african americans or latinos to begin with. So when the layoffs came down recently, african americans were disproportionately let go by huge percentage points. This was confirmed by one special AOC employee that submitted a comment about diversity with respect to the SEC report and unintentionally undermined all of the hard work of the Ministry of Truthiness, duly earning himself a position in Judicial Council Watcher’s Hall of Fame by accident no less.

Michael Roosevelt, please stand up and discuss AOC diversity.  http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/SP12-05_RooseveltM.pdf

Well as you were made aware in the last communique from the Alliance of California judges and the 10 news report, the Ministry of Truthiness is too busy with the budget cuts to talk to any television reporters but Leanne Kozak has the time to respond to the news report with a crock of B.S about telecommuting “facts” that would and should never apply to anyone like Todd Torr.

What is it that has the AOC’s Ministry of Truthiness so busy?

It would be untoward for judges and justices that sit on the judicial council and chair its various committees to come out and directly torpedo the SEC report to protect their own self-interests. The best alternative any media consultancy will tell you is to torpedo the SEC report by proxy so that your hands appear clean.  This is what currently has the Ministry of Truthiness and a few committee chairs and co-chairs on the judicial council so busy. They only have seventeen days left to torpedo this report so they’re pulling out all of the stops.

The Judicial Council and the AOC’s media arm has a considerable reach because they, much like us, have worked in media and communications. So the best thing they can do is get media coverage for outside opposition to the SEC report and get it airtime and web time. Get people all freaked out that implementing the SEC’s recommendations will cut off your access to the courts and lawyers, result in unfairness and give us a bunch of WASP judges.

Right now, they’re trying to sell this story in advance to their loyal media outlets. Meanwhile, the committee chairs, co-chairs and liaisons are enlisting the state bar members to torpedo the SEC report and create the very news that the AOC is trying to sell.

Tail.

Wag.

Dog.

The great irony as you will note are the grounds chosen. Access, fairness and the diversity of our courts with the AOC leading by example. Oh the irony.  And we can thank Joe Dunn and the  the Judicial Council’s Access and Fairness Committee for being so willing to raise the alarm flag about access, fairness and diversity being at risk and needing to be preserved by the AOC’s people and programs.

Meanwhile access to courts statewide is curtailed via court closures, fairness amounts to how deep your pockets are and diversity serves only for the purpose of stereotyping people at the AOC. 

The underlying premise of their argument amounts to a couple hundred thousand dollar outdated feel good publication commissioned by Vickrey and George called the Judicial Council’s Strategic Plan for California’s Judicial Branch. which is, in essence the blueprint for building up the AOC into the management train wreck it is today.

If you happen to see a bunch of freaked out lawyers and non-profits flooding the SEC comments urging the preservation of the AOC to preserve access, fairness and diversity, now you know where they’re coming from.

Then reflect for a moment on how the Judicial Council and their administrative arm the AOC leads by example, courtesy of Michael Roosevelt.

_______________________________________________________________


THE STATE BAR
OF CALIFORNIA                                        Council on Access & Fairness

180 Howard Street, San Francisco, California  94105                                           Telephone (415) 538-2240
 
To:                  Diversity Pipeline Stakeholders
 
From:             Council on Access & Fairness
 
RE:                 Judicial Council Receives Strategic Evaluation Committee Report on the                               Administrative Office of the Courts
 
Recent developments at the Judicial Council (Council) and Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) could have serious implications for the ongoing diversity and access & fairness work occurring in the California courts and on behalf of court users from diverse communities.  On June 21, 2012 the Strategic Evaluation Committee (SEC), which was appointed by Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye to conduct an in-depth review of the AOC, presented its report with numerous recommendations to improve the manner in which the AOC performs core functions and provides services to the courts and the public. Among the recommendations were items that would eliminate programming focusing on Procedural Fairness and Public Trust and Confidence in the Courts and that could have the effect of reducing staff expertise and other resources for ongoing access, fairness and diversity programs.
We are writing to share what is occurring because we know that you too are very concerned about diversity and fairness, and to urge you to submit formal comment on the importance of continued efforts by the Council and the AOC to ensure the sufficient allocation of resources to pursue diversity, access and fairness in the California courts.
The Council has posted the SEC report on its website and is allowing for a 30-day public comment period: http://www.courts.ca.gov/policyadmin-invitationstocomment.htm .  All public comments will be considered.  Please help the Council to prioritize what programs and entities should be maintained by submitting a comment online, mail or e-mail to the Council by the July 22, 2012 deadline.  Note that comments received will become part of the public record.
Also consider providing public comment during the Council meetings on July 27, 2012 or August 30-31, 2012.  See Open Meeting Rules at:http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/cms/rules/index.cfm?title=ten&linkid=rule10_6
An Overview of California Courts Governance 
The Judicial Council is the policymaking body of the California courts. Under the leadership of Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye and in accordance with the California Constitution, the Council is responsible for ensuring the consistent, independent, impartial, and accessible administration of justice.
The Administrative Office of the Courts carries out the policies of the Council. In this capacity it serves as its administrative arm and manages and delivers services to the entire court system.  The AOC was established in 1961 by Council resolution and is structured to provide professional services to the courts and the Council, an array of programs to improve the administration of justice, and programs to enhance court technology, judicial branch education and human resources support. The AOC also works with some 30 Council advisory committees and task forces comprised of representatives from the courts, the bar, and the public.  Together, these entities help the Council shape policies and create programs to meet the challenges of California courts and the needs of the public.
The Judicial Council’s Strategic Plan for California’s Judicial Branch, 2006–2012.
The Council’s strategic plan describes the long-range mission and goals for the California courts (seehttp://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/strategic_plan_2006-2012-full.pdf). Guided by the plan’s strategic priorities, the branch has navigated some of the most significant reforms in our history.  California’s judicial branch is committed to courts that are fair and accessible, as well as to services that are responsive to the needs of the public and that inspire the trust and confidence of Californians from all walks of life.
Goal 1 of the Council’s Strategic Plan focuses on Access, Fairness and Diversity and states that California’s courts will treat everyone in a fair and just manner. All persons will have equal access to the courts and court proceedings and programs. Court procedures will be fair and understandable to court users. Members of the judicial branch community will strive to understand and be responsive to the needs of court users from diverse cultural backgrounds. The makeup of California’s judicial branch will reflect the diversity of the state’s residents.
 
The plan lists the following policies for Judicial Council implementation of Goal 1:
  1. Identify and work to eliminate all barriers to access.
  2. Broaden and facilitate access to, understanding of, and trust and confidence in the judicial branch and court-connected programs and services for all persons and entities served by the judicial branch.
  3. Work to prevent bias, and the appearance of bias, in all parts of the judicial branch.
  4. Work to achieve procedural fairness in all types of cases.
  5. Work with justice system partners to increase access to legal assistance.
  6. Collaborate with other branches of government and justice system partners to identify, recruit, and retain highly qualified appellate court justices, trial court judges, commissioners, referees, and other members of the judicial branch workforce, who reflect the state’s diversity.
  7. Collaborate with law schools, the State Bar, local bar associations, and specialty bars to achieve greater diversity in the legal profession.
  8. Continue to promote broad diversity among the membership of the Judicial Council and its advisory committees, task forces, and working groups in order to ensure diverse perspectives and an inclusive environment.
  9. Implement, enhance, and expand multilingual and culturally responsive programs, including educational programming, self-help centers, and interpreter services.
  10. Ensure that judicial branch facilities are accessible to all court usersand accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities.
  11. Increase public access to court information and services.
 
Below is a short history of some of the work implemented by the Judicial Council, AOC and the Judicial Council’s Access and Fairness Advisory Committee in the areas of diversity, access, fairness and bias.
1987    Judicial Council through the AOC established the Advisory Committee on
Gender Bias in the Courts and later adopted all 68 recommendations of that committee to redress gender bias.
1991    Judicial Council through the AOC established the Advisory Committee on
Racial and Ethnic Bias in the Courts.
1994   Judicial Council through the AOC established the Access and Fairness Advisory Committee charged with making recommendations for continued improvements in  access and fairness in the courts in relation to race, ethnicity, gender persons with disabilities and sexual orientation.
1996   Access and Fairness Advisory Committee created guidelines for judicial officers to avoid the appearance of bias in the courts.
1997   Access and Fairness Advisory Committee conducted a survey of court users, attorneys and court personnel on public trust and confidence in the judicial system and access to the California State Courts.
2000   Access and Fairness Advisory Committee created guidelines for lawyers on eliminating gender bias in the legal profession.
2001   Access and Fairness Advisory Committee, and the Sexual Orientation Fairness Advisory Committee conducted a study and released a report on Sexual Orientation Fairness in the California Courts.
2001    Access and Fairness Advisory Committee created guidelines for judicial officers on disability fairness and avoiding the appearance of bias against persons with disabilities.

2002   Judicial Council through the AOC convened the First Statewide Conference on Race and  Ethnic Bias in the Courts.2002   Access and Fairness Advisory Committee coordinated bias training for the State Bar Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation (JNE) through the AOC’s Center for Judicial Education and Research (CJER).  (Note:  Bias training for JNE commissioners is now mandated by Govt. Code section 12011.5(b).)

2006   Judicial Council adopts its Branch Strategic and Operational Plan with Six Strategic Goals, including Goal #1 (Access, Fairness and Diversity).2006   Judicial Council through the AOC and in partnership with the State Bar of California held the First Summit on Increasing Diversity on the Bench.

2010   Access and Fairness Advisory Committee developed a resource guide and model prospective civil grand juror questionnaire with accompanying tip sheet for jury managers  and commissioners to assist in recruiting representative grand juries.
2010   Access and Fairness Advisory Committee developed a guide for judicial officers to assist in addressing issues related to LGBT youth in the court system.
2010   Judicial Council, at the recommendation of the Access and Fairness Advisory Committee, promulgated Rule 1.100 (former Rule 989.3 effective January 1, 1986) providing a mechanism for persons with disabilities to request reasonable accommodations to participate in court activities, programs or services.
2011   Judicial Council through the AOC and in partnership with the State Bar of California Council on Access and Fairness convenes a five-year follow-up Summit on Diversity on the Bench (release of the report is imminent).
Adopts a Process to Review and Take Action on Recommendations
Following the Council’s acceptance for consideration of the 250+ page report from the SEC, many voiced concern that the SEC report did not address the needs of court users, nor did it refer to maintaining ongoing efforts to comply with Goal 1 of the Council’s Strategic Plan.  In fact, the report recommended the elimination of key programs and reduction of staff and other resources without consideration of the implications for continued, effective implementation of Council priorities addressing diversity, access and fairness.
Concerns made in person during the Council meeting emphasized the need to consider the input from court users, as was noted in the prior Council and AOC surveys of court users focusing on public trust and confidence in the judicial system and the perception of fairness in court proceedings.
Written comments received during the 30-day public comment period will be posted on the California Courts website.  All comments will be provided to the Council’s Executive & Planning Committee, which will meet on August 9, 2012 to review and prioritize each recommendation and to create a timeline for implementation. The Committee will be assisted by three SEC members, including Judge Charles Wachob (Superior Court Placer County), Judge Brian McCabe (Superior Court Merced County), and Riverside Superior Court Presiding Judge Sherrill Ellsworth. The committee will report back to the Judicial Council during its August 2012 meeting.
It should also be noted that while the Council decided to post the SEC Report for a 30-day comment period and to consider comments prior to implementation of recommendations, the AOC management has already initiated implementation of its own internal reorganization (see the AOC status report:http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/SEC_aocstatusreport.pdf).
 It is urgent that diversity pipeline stakeholders assist the Council in prioritizing changes at the AOC and identifying what programs, entities, and staffing levels should be maintained.
It is also important that critical changes not be implemented by the AOC until the Council has had the opportunity to consider and include public comments in its review and implementation of the SEC recommendations.
Next Steps / All Diversity Pipeline Stakeholders are asked to:
·         Become familiar with the SEC Report and Recommendations:http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/SEC_Final_Report_May_2012_withcoverletter.pdf
·         Submit comments either online, mail or e-mail to the Council by the July 22, 2012 deadline supporting the continued implementation of Goal 1 through the allocation of adequate funding, qualified staff support and other resources for the Access and Fairness Advisory Committee, for bias training through CJER, and for other key AOC entities.
Comments should be identified as:      Item SP 12-05
                                                                                         Strategic Evaluation Committee Report
 
Comments can be mailed:                       Attn:  Invitations to Comment
                                                                                     Administrative Office of the Courts
                                                                                     455 Golden Gate Ave
                                                                                     San Francisco, Ca 94102
 
Emailed to:                                                          invitations@jud.ca.gov
 
Submitted online:        http://www.courts.ca.gov/policyadmin-invitationstocomment.htm      
           
·         Offer public comments at the July 27, 2012 and August 30-31 meetings of the Judicial Council (see Open Meeting Rules athttp://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/cms/rules/index.cfm?title=ten&linkid=rule10_6).
·         Voice concern with the lack of support for or reference to Goal 1 in the SEC Report and Recommendations and emphasize importance of the Council’s continued support for and implementation of Goal 1.
·         Urge the Council to include Goal 1 in its renewed Strategic Plan and to continue allocation of support, adequate resources and experienced staffing for ongoing implementation.
·         Urge the Council and AOC to avoid adopting recommendations prematurely without thoroughly studying their implications on court users, diversity and fairness in the courts
·         Monitor the ongoing meetings of the Council for further discussion and action on the SEC recommendations (see http://www.courts.ca.gov/jcmeetings.htm).

 

The following SAMPLE LETTER TEMPLATE is included as a guide for you to draft a letter on behalf of your organization.

 
Association Letterhead
Date
The Honorable Tani Cantil-Sakauye
Chief Justice, California Supreme Court and
Chair, Judicial Council of California
455 Golden Gate Avenue
San Francisco, CA  94102
Attn:    Invitations to Comment
            Administrative Office of the Courts
RE:      Item SP 12-05
            Strategic Evaluation Committee Report
            Comments from the (Name of Association)
Dear Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye and Members of the Judicial Council:
(Name of Association) is submitting these comments in response to the Strategic Evaluation Committee (SEC) Report on the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) presented to the Judicial Council of California on June 21, 2012.
One of the major goals of our association is to (build, promote and support a more diverse profession) which, of course, includes a more diverse judiciary. In a state that is almost sixty percent (60%) people of color, the number of ethnic minority lawyers is shockingly low at twenty percent (20%) of our legal profession.  The numbers for the judiciary (at 27.7% minority) and women in the profession (at 39.4%) are equally shocking.
Another of our goals is to ensure access and fairness and impartial treatment for all court users, in particular those from diverse backgrounds and communities. It is this belief in access and fairness and the commitment to a diverse profession that is the reason for this letter.  A failure to have a diverse profession and judiciary severely impacts the credibility and faith in our legal system by the public that we serve.
We recognize that the SEC’s charge was to conduct a “thorough and objective examination of the role, functions, organizational structure and staffing of the AOC.”  We further understand that the SEC necessarily focused on areas of concern and provided recommendations to address those concerns and that a failure to comment on particular issues or programs indicated that these were not areas of concern.  As the Judicial Council reviews the SEC Report and determines what needs to be restructured at the AOC, we urge the Council to be mindful of the positive work that has been ongoing in the area of diversity in the legal profession and in the judiciary in the past few years by the State Bar and by organizations such as ours.
Judicial Council
Page 2
 
 
We commend the Judicial Council’s Access and Fairness Advisory Committee for its ongoing efforts to assist the Council in implementing and supporting Goal 1 of your Strategic Plan focusing on diversity, access and fairness in the courts and justice system. We also support the ongoing CJER education and training on fairness for judges, attorneys and the State Bar Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation (JNE).  This ongoing support through the AOC entities is critical for the continuation of our collective efforts.
As a policy matter, it is incumbent that the Judicial Council focuses on Goal 1, as well as extends Goal 1 as part of your new strategic plan, and supports the allocation of ongoing resources and qualified staff to ensure the effective implementation of diversity programs and initiatives.  If the bench and bar are to maintain the public’s trust and confidence in the judicial system, we must strive to do all we can to utilize the best talent in a diverse population and to build that pipeline into the profession.
As former Chief Justice George commented at the first Diversity Judicial Summit held in collaboration with the State Bar of California in 2006:
            “In my view, a diverse bench not only will maintain and enhance our state’s tradition of having an              excellent judiciary, but will also serve to reinforce our guiding principle – that we are committed      to making our justice system fair and accessible to all.”
 
Thank you for this opportunity to comment in response to the SEC report.  We have full confidence that the Judicial Council will continue to live and act the mantra that is on the Judicial Branch home page: “Welcome to the California Judicial Branch — Committed to providing fair and equal access to justice for all Californians”
We commend the Judicial Council and the AOC for the positive work it has done to promote and ensure support for and implementation of Goal 1 and we offer our assistance to build a diverse organization that will go far to foster public trust and confidence and the perception of fairness in our judicial system.
Sincerely,
(Name), (President or other title)
(Name of Organization)
cc:        Justice Douglas Miller, Chair, Judicial Council Executive & Planning Committee
            Jody Patel, Interim Administrative Director, Administrative Office of the Courts
            (Same address as above)