SEC Recommendations Subject to “Rolling Public Comment”– No End In Sight

Posted on July 25, 2012

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July 25, 2012

Dear Members and Others,

As you know, the period to comment on the recommendations of the SEC closed last Sunday, or so you may have thought. Actually, the Judicial Council decided to subject the 140-plus recommendations to a “rolling public comment,” which means there is no apparent end in sight. The Alliance will formally request that all comments considered by the Council continue to be publicly posted whenever they are received. The location of the comments received thus far has been moved to this link.  If you haven’t commented yet, please do so by emailing you comment to invitations@jud.ca.gov.  If you don’t think it’s necessary, visit the above link and read some of the comments that arrived last night.  No judge in the state should fail to take part in this most important survey.

We are pleased to report that the overwhelming majority of the nearly 500 comments received and posted so far call for the immediate implementation of ALL recommendations. These comments come from judges representing small, medium and large courts in southern, central and northern California. Both the Alliance of California Judges and the California Judges Association also weighed in supporting the recommendations, which is significant because combined these organizations represent virtually all judges and justices in California.

Notwithstanding the significant endorsement by the judges of our state, already a member of the Judicial Council appears inclined to minimize the results of the survey by suggesting that judges only submitted comments at the behest of the Alliance. We are puzzled by this reaction because the Alliance asked all judges in this state to weigh in. The fact that roughly one in four California judges actually turned out as requested by the Council–an unprecedented number for any public comment period–should be applauded, not derided. The fact that some are uncomfortable with the results of a survey they approved, and they administered, is beyond troubling. It is time for the Council to listen, not to question those who turned out–as requested by the Council and Chief Justice–to make their views known.

To all parties who took the time to comment publicly, whether we agree with your position or not, we say, “Well done!” You made your views known.

We include an article by reporter Paul Jones of the Daily Journal which summarizes the survey to this point.

Directors, Alliance of California Judges

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Daily Journal

7/24/2012

Judges overwhelmingly support overhaul of AOC

The report, presented last month, criticized the judiciary’s administrative arm as too big, without adequate oversight

By Paul Jones

Hundreds of judges, commissioners and interested parties across the state have submitted comments overwhelmingly in support of the recommendations in a report sharply critical of the state Administrative Office of the Courts.

The report was created by the Strategic Evaluation Committee, which was formed to evaluate ways to improve the AOC, and presented to the Judicial Council of California in late June.

Although comments are still being taken, the comment period officially closed Sunday, and the results show a state judiciary eager to enact the report’s findings that the AOC operates without adequate oversight and has grown too large and is inefficient. The responses also appear to demonstrate the pull of the Alliance of California Judges, a group that has struck a highly critical posture toward the AOC. While the Alliance’s membership isn’t public, many of the comments pushed unequivocally for the full and immediate adoption of all of the report’s recommendations without further consideration, as the Alliance had called for.

“The Alliance of California Judges had a campaign going – they even distributed a form to encourage comments,” said Yolo County Superior Court Judge David Rosenberg, a member of the judicial council. “I think they certainly encouraged comments urging immediate adoption.”

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Steve White, an Alliance member, said his organization merely helped to “light up what judges strongly believe up and down the state.”

He added, “We didn’t create those perceptions or responses; they were out there. We did encourage them to express to the AOC and council their positions.”

The Alliance, a relatively young organization, formed in part as a result of some feeling that the California Judges Association had responded inadequately to perceived problems with the AOC and Judicial Council. In its comments on the SEC’s report, the California Judges Association struck a somewhat softer stance, urging discussion and consideration of the recommendations before their implementation.

More than half of the comments overall came from judges and commissioners of the Los Angeles County Superior Court. The official statement from that court was consistent with the stance taken by most of its responding members, urging adoption of the report’s suggestions “without further delay.”

“No further studies are needed. No more fact gathering is necessary,” according to the court’s statement.

Despite the many calls for immediate action, Rosenberg said the upcoming process – with the Executive and Planning Commission presenting recommendations for implementation to the Judicial Council Aug. 27 – is necessary to evaluate how to put the SEC’s advice to good use.

“There are also a handful of comments … that express concerns about two or three of the recommendations – and we owe it to those commentators to review those concerns and see if the recommendations need to be tweaked a little bit,” he said.