Is it just us or does this character live on another planet?
Today will complete my first month as Administrative Director. I wanted to take this opportunity to check in and share information with you on a number of ongoing activities for our organization and for the judicial branch.
Judicial Council Recognition of Jody Patel
I would first like to extend congratulations to Jody Patel on her recognition by the Judicial Council with its Distinguished Service Award for Judicial Administration. Although Jody has been quick to point to the strong collaboration she received from the directors during her tenure, she is most deserving of this honor for her exceptional service as Interim Administrative Director of the Courts. We are fortunate to have Jody’s continuing leadership as Chief of Staff.
Voter Passage of Proposition 30
The successful passage of the Governor’s tax initiative on Tuesday provided some relief for the state budget in terms of new revenue. The state’s budget circumstances are still challenging and vulnerabilities are still present but, plainly, its passage put the judicial branch in a much better circumstance than had it not gone through. Further, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s post-election comment that the judicial branch is one of the areas of government that has suffered the most and that it is one of the priority areas for attention provided a clear indication of awareness in the Legislature about judicial branch needs.
The past month has borne out my prior experience that the Administrative Office of the Courts employs some of the most hardworking, dedicated public servants in government. From the many individuals with whom I have engaged on issues and the quality of work product I have seen, it is clear that the strong commitment to improving the administration of justice is alive and well in our organization. At the same time, I recognize that increased workloads and reduced resources are exacting a toll. As a corollary to implementing the Judicial Council’s directives on restructuring the AOC, we have initiated a process to clarify priority functions and services for the agency with the goal of achieving a more effective allocation of personnel and workload. Final recommendations will be brought forward to the Judicial Council in the spring.
In relation to the restructuring efforts, my thanks to all involved in implementing directives and preparing the progress report presented to the Judicial Council by Executive and Planning (E&P) Committee chair Justice Douglas Miller at its October 26 business meeting. The report provided a status update for all 145 directives, including detail on 55 directives we have completed or on which specific updates were requested. Monthly updates will continue to be provided to E&P, in addition to reports at future council meetings. These progress reports will be posted to the AOC Restructuring page on the California Courts website.
Classification and Compensation Study
The division chiefs and I were briefed yesterday by the Human Resources Services Office on the status of the first phase of the AOC classification and compensation study. As you know, 39 classifications pertaining to 223 employees are being reviewed in this phase. The review process is on schedule for completion of the first phase by end of January 2013. HR is currently reconciling employees’ submissions on their duties with the supervisors or managers to whom the employee reports. Recommendations and resource requirements for completing a timely study for all classifications will be presented to the Judicial Council in February 2013.
Hearing from AOC Management and Key Customer Groups
Restructuring was a central topic for discussions at the meeting of supervisors, managers, and executive leadership on October 16, a recap of which was shared with you through the AOC intranet (meeting recap). I appreciated the exchange with the management team members during the question-and-answer session. E&P vice-chair Judge Ken So and I also participated in breakout sessions the division chiefs had with management staff from those offices for which they have oversight responsibility. This was a good initial step in establishing communications channels within the framework of the new structure, and we received helpful feedback. I am also benefitting from the series of briefings on the work of each of your offices. Over the past two weeks, the respective division chiefs and I have met with executive and management staff of the Judicial Branch Capital Program Office, Trial Court Liaison and Special Programs Office, Office of Governmental Affairs, Office of Real Estate and Facilities Management, and Trial Court Administrative Services Office. The briefings, 17 in total, will continue into December; most are occurring in office conference rooms. Following the sessions, wherever possible, I will spend some time visiting informally with staff on the different floors and locations. I was glad to have the opportunity to meet and talk with staff from our Burbank office earlier this week.
The array of critical issues on which the AOC is focused on behalf of the trial and appellate courts drives the ongoing, and in some cases almost daily, interaction with judicial branch leaders and stakeholders. The meetings I have had with the administrative presiding justices and clerk/administrators of the Courts of Appeal, the presiding judges and court administrators of the superior courts, and numerous other groups during the past several weeks have underscored the importance of the dialogue and collaboration that we must have to deliver services effectively and efficiently. The positive working relationships that many of you have established with judges and court personnel are critical to the AOC’s success in this effort.
Strengthening Two-Way Communication
Similarly, open channels of communication within the AOC will support how we accomplish our daily work and overarching charge to improve the statewide administration of justice. The division chiefs, Jody, Curt Child, and Curt Soderlund, and I are purposefully working to promote timely discussion and action on issues. We encourage you to work through your division and office leadership and colleagues to raise issues that need to be addressed and bring forward suggestions. We also invite your direct feedback and questions through Tina Carroll, the Executive Office’s Liaison, who will share your input with us.
To further facilitate information sharing across AOC offices, the Executive Office and the Office of Communications, with input from the AOC Internal Communications Advisory Group comprising representatives from other offices, are developing a regular communication to highlight Judicial Council/AOC issues, programs, and leadership. This communication vehicle, which will commence in the New Year, will include a feedback mechanism so that we address the issues that are important to you. In addition, the Office of Communications will be seeking your feedback on internal communications through its annual survey process.
Judicial Council Support
At last month’s management team meeting, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye and Judge So both voiced their support for the manner in which the AOC has responded to challenges and to change. Like all areas of government, we have a public responsibility for the improvement of the institution we serve and the services we provide. We are still in the midst of the change process, from policy and procedures right down to the physical office moves that have occurred and will be occurring. The process is not without anxieties, but with each element of change, we are building a bridge to a new environment. I appreciate your support and hard work as we continue to push forward and, again, wish to reiterate that the Executive Office welcomes your input and feedback.
Judge Steven Jahr
Administrative Director of the Courts
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