Setting up the courts for an AOC takeover?

Posted on November 29, 2012

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It appears that more than a few courts out there fear an AOC takeover of their management. With reserves dwindling down to a mere 1%, that equates to a 1% margin of error in budgeting. By any stretch when you’re dealing with an annual budget of tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, a 1% margin of error is pretty slim.

Given the way that the non-judicial agencies operate in California, there is no takeover threat if they blow their budgets. In fact, oftentimes they just delay payments until the funding flows again. A failure to spend all of your money this year often results in these agencies getting a smaller piece of the pie next year, so the government game of spending in excess of your budget is played out in every government entity that is not the judicial branch.

This year Government Code 77203 spelled out that come 14-15 budget year, reserves will be reduced down to that impossible 1%. If courts spend too little, those monies in excess of 1% will be swept. If they spend too much, they risk an AOC takeover of their court management. This will equate to 58 courts on high-wire without a viable safety net.

The issue here is that Government code 77206 says the following and was not – but should be repealed in its entirety. 

77206.  (a) Notwithstanding any other law, the Judicial Council may regulate the budget and fiscal management of the trial courts…

 

Say, wasn’t it the Judicial Council and the AOC that was bursting court budgets with all of their off-budget follies into case management and other questionable endeavors? It was! Who takes over the Judicial Council and the AOC when they burst their budgets or conduct further off-budget follies? Isn’t committing to spend 1.8 billion dollars on just one courthouse something that exceeds the AOC’s own budget by a factor of 20? Or how about CCMS whose budget was projected to be blown by a factor of 10?

Does the legislature really want to permit the unaccountable to take over court management all over the state so that every court is even less accountable? So that more courthouses are shut down while thousands more employees are laid off? Does a takeover mean that a local courts budget is folded into an AOC budget?  
 
77206.1.  (a) The presiding judge, or the person designated by the presiding judge to authorize expenditures from the Trial Court Operations Fund, shall approve no claim, and shall authorize no warrant, for any obligation in excess of that authorized therefor in the budget authorized by the Judicial Council.
   (b) The Administrative Director of the Courts shall advise the Judicial Council, and the Judicial Council may appoint a person or entity to manage the expenditures from the Trial Court Operations Fund, of any court found to be in violation of this section.

Years ago, it was Mr. Jahr was spearheading the unification sales pitch, going so far as wanting to fold probation and parole under the AOC’s wing in addition to all of the trial courts. He was selling but many courts in addition to probation and parole weren’t buying. And now that he is the administrative director, he gets to take his pound of flesh out of those courts that didn’t support him. After all, it is Mr. Jahr that is doing the ‘finding’.

What the AOC was incapable of accomplishing by going through the front door it appears today that they will easily be able to accomplish by going through the 1% margin of error back door and this puts the greatest pressure on the holdout courts. Leading the pack of holdout courts is LASC.

Repeal Government Code 77206 in its entirety or in a few years, a majority of holdout courts will fall under the AOC’s control. 
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