Transparency? AOC? Think again. – AOC to pay justices to attend Monterey conference?

Posted on September 8, 2012

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September 7, 2012

Dear Members and Others,

Yesterday’s message included an email that Alliance President Judge David Lampe sent to former acting director of the AOC, Jody Patel, requesting information about activities of the AOC’s Office of Governmental Affairs, along with the history of how the request was referred first to another AOC staffer and then to Justice Harry Hull, but was never answered by anyone. This practice of either delaying responses to legitimate requests for information or ignoring them altogether has been going on for some time. Perhaps time will permit us to forward some of those past requests and the AOC responses — or lack thereof — on another date, but for now we thought you should know about the most recent example of AOC foot-dragging in response to a simple request from Alliance Director Judge Maryanne Gilliard.

Judge Gilliard sent the following email September 5 to Leanne Kozak, the AOC staff person named as the contact person in the news release announcing the appointment of individuals to the three top AOC executive positions, which was summarized in a “Court News Update” which was blasted — perhaps twice — to every judge in the state:

From: Gilliard, Maryanne
Sent: Wednesday, September 05, 2012 2:20 PM
To: Kozak, Leanne
Subject: question

Ms. Kozak,

Can you please tell me how much the new top three AOC staff members will be paid? Also, what benefits will they receive? Will they be required to pay in to their pension plans or will the agency pay the entire amount?

Regards,
Judge Maryanne Gilliard

Rather than provide a prompt and straightforward response, Ms. Kozak placed this simple request about salary and benefits into the AOC’s favorite black hole of late, Rule 10.500 of the Rules of Court:

From: Finke, Chad [mailto:Chad.Finke@jud.ca.gov]
Sent: Thursday, September 06, 2012 11:36 AM
To: Gilliard, Maryanne
Cc: Pubinfo; Patel, Jody
Subject: FW: question from Hon. Gilliard

Judge Gilliard,

Your request below has been referred to my office for response under rule 10.500 of the California Rules of Court.  We will respond within the time frame established under the rule.

Thanks,
Chad

Chad Finke
Director
Court Programs and Services Division
Judicial Council of California – Administrative Office of the Courts
455 Golden Gate Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102-3688
415-865-8925, Fax 415-865-4329
chad.finke@jud.ca.gov
www.courts.ca.gov

“Serving the courts for the benefit of all Californians.”

We heard a great deal of talk at the last meeting of the Judicial Council about a new era of transparency and responsiveness from the AOC. Perhaps we will see a different approach to our requests for information under a “transformed” AOC, but for now we have yet to locate anyone there who can provide a timely response to a simple request for what should be very public information about salaries and benefits paid to the AOC’s top administrators. We learned from a member of the press, however, that their request for this information yesterday was promptly met with this response: Jody Patel will be paid $216,000 per year, while Curt Soderlund and Curt Child will each be paid $198,000 per year.

Apparently, the AOC’s promise to serve the courts “for the benefit of all Californians” excludes the 450 members of the Alliance of California Judges. Perhaps our request will escape the vortex of Rule 10.500 and we will — “within the timeline established under the rule” — get an answer to our further inquiry regarding the undoubtedly generous benefits also provided to these newly elevated bureaucrats. We will pass that information on to you as soon as we receive it.

Additionally, last week we learned that the AOC will pay appellate justices up to $300 each to reimburse them for going to the upcoming CJA conference in Monterey, and that the Chief Justice authorized this. We were told by a justice that the reimbursement would be handled through Mr. Finke’s office. We made an information request two lines long that asked Mr.Finke whether this was true, whether trial court judges would also be reimbursed, and who authorized the reimbursement of justices. That matter was immediately shunted to Justice Hull, who has yet to acknowledge the request. As we noted previously, Justice Hull refusers to answer these referrals other than by U.S. mail. We also note that Justice Hull, chair of the Rules Committee, has no prescribed duties or particular authority in this area. If we receive a response, we will share that with you as well.

Directors, Alliance of California Judges