AG Harris: Carrying the ball against an unelected judge is your responsibility

Posted on January 8, 2013

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To use a euphemism cited by one of our posters courtflea, chickenshit is contagious.  Thus far the mostly 18,000+ rank and file employees left in California’s judicial branch and many judges have been nonplussed thus far by the lackluster and carefree attitude that the AG’s office has had when it comes to Judicial Council and AOC indiscretions.  Time and time again the AG’s office, weather under the wing of Jerry Brown or Kamala Harris has let all of us honest, ethical and hard-working employees down while the well connected criminals running this show at the top are issued free pass after free pass. In effect, it has now been two AG’s that have extended the equivalent of absolute judicial immunity for administrative acts to those who work for the Administrative Office of the Courts.

 

Under AG Brown and a District Attorney Kamala Harris, we all know that a hundred thousand dollar embezzlement took place in the human resources department of the AOC because Bill Vickrey told us as much when he sat in front of a committee on accountability and administrative review . To use  Mr. Vickrey’s own words, “The D.A. (Harris) chose not to prosecute” yet for the life of us, not one of us could locate any crime report anywhere that indicated that a crime was committed or reported.

Realistically AG Harris, we don’t think you declined to prosecute a hundred thousand dollar embezzlement of public funds. We think that the co-conspirators at the AOC who also had their hand in the public cookie jar did not want anyone poking around so they buried it and blamed it on you of all people. About a half-dozen journalists and another half-dozen judicial branch employees all well-connected to the legal community tried to locate this crime report that you are alleged to have chosen to not prosecute. We checked with the CHP. No crime report. We checked with the Judicial Protection Unit. No crime report. We checked with the San Francisco Sheriffs office. No crime report. We checked with SFPD. No crime report. And yet you allowed the former executive director of the AOC pin the responsibility of a hundred thousand dollar embezzlement of public funds on you as a failure to prosecute.

Then we had the unlicensed contractor debacle wherein five unlicensed contractors were permitted to stay on the job at the AOC while your former AOC lawyers that now work for the AG’s office provided ample legal and political cover for more Administrative Office of the Courts misdeeds. Only this time, there would be some judicial council culpability, for it was the judicial council themselves that approved many of these arrangements and agreements under the recommendations of the AOC. Except for a lack of oversight over their administrative offices, neither the rank and file, nor the journalists really believe that the judicial council was the responsible party here. Unless of course, some of those judicial council members were the recipients of some free or heavily discounted construction or remodeling work in exchange for the gross overcharging that this group of unlicensed contractors were engaged in. Everybody knows it. It is no secret to hundreds of state judges or thousands of court employees. Court employees that are today losing their jobs due in part to the misdeeds of those who appear to have absolute judicial immunity for their administrative acts.

They keep their jobs while all of us lose our jobs.

Is that fair Ms. Harris or Mr. Brown?

Is it fair that everyone else (the public, the taxpayers, other judicial branch employees) pays the price for misdeeds of those who appear to have absolute judicial immunity for their administrative acts? A reminder Ms. Harris that the statute of limitations on these misdeeds has not yet passed, but they will pass under your watch.

Insofar as legislators having some culpability here, we’ve heard from over a dozen legislative aides that they assume that the FBI is investigating these matters, so they continue to dole out billions to the very people who have been accused and where there exists ample evidence to cause a broad investigation and yes, prosecution. Sure, those stellar minds occupying those chairs in the capital did indeed turn down the spigot that is fueling this mess, but they turned off the cold water spigot that keeps our courts afloat, not the hot water spigot that is scalding us with scandal after scandal, boondoggle after boondoggle. When will it ever end and by the way, what is the procedure for state insolvency just in case….

At a state level, we should be taking out our own garbage and not relying on the federal government to do it for us but this reliance on the feds seems to be the only time anything gets done. Prison overcrowding, inhumane conditions, no medical care. Let the federal courts solve the problem for us by making Kelso an AOC employee. No court interpreters? Well that’s just too bad. We can’t get reimbursed from the AOC for the interpreters we hire and it is the AOC that gets the funding so we just won’t hire any interpreters. Who cares if someones civil matter isn’t fairly heard or adjudicated because of language barriers? It’s not our fault, it is the fault of that giant sucking sound coming out of San Francisco called the AOC.  But it takes a USDOJ probe to cause the chief justice to declare that she wishes to dispel these urban legends of not getting reimbursed from the AOC for hiring court interpreters. Just set aside the observation that the AOC is sweeping the unspent funds for their own operations because we’re going to discourage that going forward and present it to the legislature as yet another big budget hit. Go forth and hire hundreds of court interpreters!

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Meanwhile, the cold water spigot feeding the trial courts is still turned off so while we will probably have far more court interpreters in the near future, they will be balanced out by the scalding hot water of other cuts. More courtrooms and whole courthouses closed. More employees of other classifications laid off. And where was this problem generated? Well that donkey tail can be pinned on those that tout excellence in leadership and administration at the AOC. And the beat goes on.

The CCMS boondoggle stole funds from trial courts in exchange for the air we breathe. Such a deal! The Long Beach PPP project stands to steal the funds for four other courthouses across the state and is being delivered to us at a price that is, at 792 million dollars in projects set aside, is nearly 120% more expensive than a federal courthouse across town of the same square footage that will be built on Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles. Since it is the feds we put so much reliance upon to solve our problems, maybe we should just transfer the responsibility for courthouse construction to the U.S. General Services Administration across the street from the AOC. At least then we could see some value from this program. Meanwhile, more courthouses close and more court employees continue to pay the price for poor decisions made by the AOC.

Today we have the situation of an unelected judge assigned by the AOC under the AOC-run Assigned Judges Program that has been reassigned to the same Shasta bench 208 times and for 19 consecutive, virtually uninterrupted years. Governor Brown could never make such an appointment without it being challenged, yet consecutive chief justices who have delegated the operations of this program to the AOC have permitted this abomination to occur for nineteen consecutive years and through three judicial election cycles. We’ve been questioning the efficacy of this since our inception. We’ve been copied letters about it that were written to consecutive chief justices so they’ve clearly known it’s been an issue for some time. It is only when a brave retiree living on social security in Shasta County challenges this abomination that everyone chooses to take notice. And how do they take notice? By saying the unelected judge does not currently have those responsibilities, even though Shasta County continues to hold him out as a judge in their court as of this very minute and even though the chief justices letter removing him from his assigned duties leaves the door open to reappoint this unelected judge back to the bench.

You will be hard pressed to find a single rank and file employee in the branch that would agree with this course of action on behalf of either the chief justice or your office. Rather, we all look at it as just another AOC exception to the constitution and the rule of law.

It is so not surprising that yet another former AOC attorney has been handed this case on behalf of the AG’s office and that the responsibility to enforce and uphold the constitution and the laws of this state is proxied through a 79 year old social security recipient that can’t even afford to take on the battle. And everyone knows this so that is why they intend to kick the ball back to the new state top law enforcer, 79 year old Mr. Charles Wagner, yet have complete control of the suit so that it dies on the vine and Mr. Wagner carries the ball on all fees and costs.

Chickenshit is indeed contagious. 

Ms. Harris, you have big shoes to fill as the states top law enforcement officer. The media is watching how this will be handled by your office. And this time, make no mistake, you will own the decision. Handing the case back to the relator is the same thing as saying that the people of Shasta County have no suffrage rights….. and your office knows it.