Administrator urges the judicial council to ignore Judges’ calls for change

Posted on July 16, 2012


July 16, 2012

Dear Members and Others:

First, let us offer our thanks and congratulations to those of you have already responded to the invitation of the Chief Justice to comment on the report of her SEC committee by emailing  We are heartened and proud that so many California judges have stepped up to insist that the recommendations of the SEC be immediately adopted by the Council and implemented promptly.  Only this sort of outpouring of comment will translate this view, which we believe is the correct one, into reality. 

To see the comments received and posted thus far, please simply click on and you will be taken to the Council website where each comment is listed in reverse order of receipt.  The website is updated roughly at 4:30 p.m. every day, so if you don’t see your comment, wait a day and it will probably be up.  If it isn’t, contact us and we’ll make sure it is.

Please understand that this battle is far from over.  Those who favor the status quo

are also making their views known and more will do so during the comment period, which ends on July 22.  Please see, for example, the comment of Mr. Alexander Aikman, a well known administrative guru and former vice president of the National Center for State Courts.  (The AOC still pays the National Center roughly $1 million per year for its “services.”) 

Mr. Aikman finds nothing but fault with the SEC report, and he argues that no changes should be implemented at all by the Council.  He characterizes the SEC investigation as incomplete because not every single court employee in the state was contacted (a process that would have turned a 55-week process into one taking years), ignoring the fact that the committee sent out over 3,500 surveys to all current and recently retired judges and justices, all 58 current court executive officers, all AOC directors and unit managers, all other AOC employees and everyone who has worked at the AOC in the past five years, as well as to those outside the judiciary who have an interest in its operations.

He argues that new AOC leadership (as yet unnamed) must determine which, if any, SEC recommendations should be adopted.  His views seem shaped by a mistrust of–if not an outright disdain for–judges, and his belief in the primacy of administrators mirrors the current culture of control permeating the AOC.  Mr. Aikman seems to suggest that the judicial role is valuable largely because the respect inherent in the office provides a credible public face for the actions of administrators-the true visionaries.  Consistent with that view, he expressly urges the Council to simply ignore the views expressed by judges seeking swift implementation of the SEC’s recommendations.

A few of his views bear repeating. 

“No attempt should be made to try to eliminate either mistakes or discretion (of the AOC) or set the Council up as a supernumerary administration.”

“Observers have noted for many years that judges’ perspectives are ‘professional,’ i.e., focused on their status as professionals and their ‘independence” rather than on the court as an institution with requirements and needs independent of individual judges preferences.”

“New leadership…should be given a chance to propose and implement specific changes.”

“It will not be easy to disregard the many voices calling for immediate and dramatic action, but it is best for the Council and branch if it does so.”

“Relying primarily on judges weakens the result because many judges do not have the background in management policy and experience that will produce the best solution.”

His public comment mirrors many of his earlier published comments.  The following is from his article, “The Need for Leaders in Court Administration,” which appeared in The Court Manager, Volume 22, Issue 1.

“Judges should set the parameters of the position and then get out of the way.”

“It is very hard for administrators to be leaders in courts.  Or, perhaps more accurately, it is very hard for administrators to be the visible leaders of significant change…”  

“If judges will allow administrators to do the management job they were hired to do, and if judges can learn to be comfortable having a strong manager make decisions without their input or control…the judicial branch will continue to grow and prosper.”  (Emphasis ours.)

“Judges need to know what management is, how to be an employee (emphasis ours), without jeopardizing one’s electability or adjudicatory independence, and how to oversee the work of their administrator without imposing their individual judgment about how things should be done or specific outcomes that must be achieved.”

Mr. Aikman sees no fault with the AOC.  Rather, judges are the problem.  In the same article cited above, Mr. Aikman wrote: “Judges are not writing about why their administrators should be regarded as peers with different skill sets rather than assistants who deal with organization details with which they do not want to deal.  Judges are not writing about the need for effective administrators.  Therefore, the second part of the need is judicial education.”  (Emphasis in original.)

It is views like these that created the AOC that we have today.  Judges in this state must continue to speak out and not accede to those, like Mr. Aikman, who insist that judges’ voices be “ignored.” 

Thank you for your continued support, and if you haven’t yet sent your public comment in, please do so immediately.  


Alliance of California Judges


*corrected to reflect Mr. Aikman was an NCSC vice president.