There will be no sunshine in the Crystal Palace today…

Posted on August 9, 2012

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August 9, 2012

Dear Members and Others:

As you know, two days ago we made a timely request under Rule 10.10(d) that Justice Miller exercise his discretion and open today’s meeting of the Executive and Planning Committee of the Judicial Council to judges and the public. Rather than act on our request and exercise his own discretion as the rule requires, Justice Miller stated that he would consult his committee. Since the meeting commenced at 8:30 this morning and we haven’t heard a word from Justice Miller or the committee, we presume our request was denied.

Rules of Court have the force of law. The rule in question, Rule 10.10(d), indicates that the Chair, not the committee, has the discretion to open any meeting of the E and P committee. It appears that the rule has been ignored, since at the outset Justice Miller decided to seek input from his committee rather than simply acting on our request. To complicate matters, the Daily Journal reported today that Justice Miller intended to bring the matter up at the very meeting that we asked to be opened to the public, making a denial or delay of the meeting a foregone conclusion.

We wonder why Justice Miller didn’t simply exercise his discretion under the rule or, barring that, contact the committee members via phone or email with the help of the AOC staff assistant to the committee, Jody Patel. After all, there are only six members on the committee and they often do business via email. For example, the committee enacted the entirety of the Judicial Council Governance Policies via a non-public, unnoticed email vote in 2009. The insularity, secrecy and obfuscation of the Committee’s activities seems not to be a thing of the past.

We wonder why Rule 10.10(d) even exists, since to our knowledge the E and P committee has never opened a single meeting to the public under the chairmanship of Justice Richard Huffman, which spanned well over a decade, or under Justice Miller. We also note that Justice Miller and his committee apparently have no problem opening the meeting to select individuals, as uncovered by the Daily Journal. We believe this disparate treatment is unfair, plain and simple. It seems that the default position is simply to deny any request, however reasonable, put forth by the Alliance of California Judges.

Finally, we applaud Judge Charles Wachob, chair of the Strategic Evaluation Committee, for his leadership and good judgment in making the same request for an open meeting. We are very disappointed that the Council’s most powerful internal committee ignored his request.

We have sent the following to Justice Miller.  Once again, thank you for your continued support.

Directors,
Alliance of California Judges
___________________________________
August 9, 2012

Dear Justice Miller:

We attach today’s Daily Journal article by reporter Paul Jones. From the article we glean that you have apparently opened up the meeting to certain select judges. The article references the current President of another Judges organization.

Justice Miller, if you are prepared to allow non members of your E&P Committee to attend your closed door session, why not open up the meeting to all? It is indefensible that the default position is closed meetings, and that your decision as to who should and who should not attend seems rather obviously based on whether the group in question is in or out of favor with leadership.

We applaud the Chief Justice who had the courage to open up the secretive issues meetings that precede Council meetings. Justice Miller, why not follow the lead of the Chairwoman of the Judicial Council and open your meeting? The judges of this State who are working in courtrooms as your committee meets deserve full disclosure. It is not an adequate substitute to provide judges, the public, and the press with a “summary” of your meeting. Further, you downplay the importance of the actions to be taken by your committee. We all know that invariably the Council follows the recommendations of E and P, just as they did at the last Council meeting. It was, after all, your committee that insisted on a public comment period before acting on the SEC report.

Justice Miller, you have the sole authority to open this meeting under Rule of Court 10.10(d). We again urge you in the spirit of transparency and accountability to allow the sun to shine within the walls of your meeting room. Justice Miller, please do not make a mockery of the terms “transparency” and “accountability”. It is well past the point where the non democratically appointed Judicial Council must begin to walk the walk rather than simply talk the talk.

Judge Maryanne Gilliard
Director, Alliance of California Judges

_________________________________________________________

Just published in the Daily Journal this morning: A synopsis of this article because DJ wants over 500 bucks to post a PDF on a website.

Closed meeting draws ire
By Paul Jones

A meeting today of the Judicial Council’s Executive and Planning Committee to discuss how to implement recommendations of a critical report aimed at reforming the Administrative Office of the Courts is causing its own controversy.

[snip]

Judge Charles D. Wachob of Placer County Superior Court, the chair of the Strategic Evaluation Committee, also said he’d asked Miller to make today’s meeting public.

“My personal feeling is that a primary theme of the SEC report is that transparency, accountability, and efficiency of the AOC must increase,” Wachob said. “Therefore, consistent with the themes in the report, I felt that transparency is promoted by having an open discussion of the recommendations made in the report. Especially when there is such a high degree of interest in the public, and in the judicial branch itself.”

[snip]

<b>On Wednesday, Miller said he would put the question about opening the meeting to the committee when it’s scheduled to meet today.</b>
[snip]

“We’re not the determinative body, we’re not making any decisions,” Miller said. JCW: He also indicated that if the meeting were to be made public, he would reschedule it. Not likely after everyone travels to get to todays meeting.

[snip]

Judge Gilliard:
“We should be able to hear the discussion – open up the meeting so the judges, public and press can hear the discussion that’s occurring regarding what’s the most important issue our branch has faced in 15 years,” she said. “It’s an open report with open comment on the World Wide Web and they specifically are meeting to discuss the public comments – in private.”

[snip]

Miller said that SEC members and California Judges Association President Judge David Rubin of San Diego County Superior Court would be in attendance, as well as several other judges who will be joining the Executive and Planning Commission in September.