Buying time in the hope that you’ll give up or forget has consequences

Posted on December 6, 2012


Yesterday, Steven Jahr released a sky is falling letter indicating that the governor was going back on his word and is cutting 200 million out of the judicial branch budget by sequestering reserves a year early. Jahr released this letter to judicial branch leaders statewide in an effort to motivate everyone into pleading for no more cuts to reserves or judicial branch funding before the governor releases his budget to the legislature.

Yet we can all plainly see what has been and continues to happen at the top. Before the AOC completes their reorganization three years of studies will have passed, thousands of court employees will have lost their jobs, dozens of courthouses across the state will have been shut down and services to the public will be curtailed throughout the California courts. Meanwhile, the AOC’s workload and compensation study seems to have already resulted in some raises for AOC’s senior management after 35 layoffs of personnel just so they can say they had layoffs as well. Some of the cuts made were made in the areas of highly visible personnel in the AOC’s ministry of truth and enlightenment while all of the others were from the lowest levels of the agency.

We respectfully submit that they cut those personnel so that they could use their salaries to give management raises without increasing their overall personnel costs.

By every account submitted to us from AOC personnel across all divisions, management continues to grow even as the number of line workers shrinks.

The true costs of the Long Beach courthouse were not known to most of us that work in the judicial branch because the AOC did not disclose those costs to anyone other than the department of finance and only then, they released those costs in an effort to get a budget change proposal pushed through to cover their proverbial asses and to cover Meridiam Infrastructures bad bet. Only after DOF says don’t count on those funds materializing does the central politburo come back to the courts with a no money, no honey message about further courthouse construction cuts.

There was a political message there as well. However that political message will not be carried by the AOC or court leaders. That announcement was made to get Bob Balgenorth and friends in the Building & Construction Trades Council to feverishly lobby legislators to cover up the AOC’s colossal long beach gamble by funding the project and pushing through with the other courthouse builds.

Food for thought: If the AOC is forced to walk away from the Long Beach debacle that they created, then Long Beach becomes a two billion dollar shopping center or the partnership will be driven into bankruptcy where that property could be picked up for a song. The trades workers have already been paid so there is no loss of jobs to the BCTC membership. Walk away and all of the other courthouses will be protected and down the road the courts will get a better deal on that building. Additionally, Long Beach zoning restrictions could put a damper on using that property for anything but a courthouse, forcing long beach justice partners back to the negotiating table to cut a better deal for the state or risk bankruptcy.

We find it curious that the amount of proposed budget cut is about equal to the AOC’s annual budget. Think for a moment on how the other two branches of government might wish to address the continued two billion dollar boondoggles produced by the AOC that continue to be overlooked by a judicial council – the same judicial council that pledged oversight over their rogue administrative offices. The same judicial council that gives lip service to transparency and accountability time and time again. They might direct a 200 million dollar budget cut at the AOC for the purposes of forcing the Judicial Council to clean house and to start over with a new slate.

And how might the central politburo react  to such news? By telling the trial courts it will be their budgets and that their reserves are being swept a year early. With that nifty new ethics opinion that cautions you against advocating for courts over construction, you’re forced to back the central politburo.

Even those in Sacramento are saying that this “news” is a bit premature about the sweeping of funds but Christmas is the season for budgetary politics.

It has been an extremely difficult process to send a message from the legislature and the executive offices of the State of California to those in the third branch who don’t appear to be listening. Even the third branch rank and file and a majority of this states judges smell something foul coming out of San Francisco and have grown weary of being guilty by association with the AOC’s self-inflicted boondoggles.

The question is: Are you ready to demand change from your elected representatives yet?

Have you grown weary yet of the Judicial Council and the AOC perpetually buying time with study after study in the hope that you’ll give up or forget that they keep producing these boondoggles and that no one is ever held accountable?

It’s time to demand change.