Diversionary Tactics of the JC\AOC

Posted on February 4, 2013

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You probably haven’t really noticed it that much. We started noticing it the day King George tendered his resignation.  What I’m talking about here is diversionary tactics – a method to turn your attention away from a real controversy to one that is manufactured. As a branch, what we should be focusing on is the May revise and convincing the legislature and governor that we need a couple hundred million more to preserve our justice system and stave off over a thousand layoffs in the trial courts. That our courts should be funded directly and bypassing that giant sucking sound in San Francisco intent on building overpriced tributes to themselves and that the giant sucking sound should be thrown out of the construction business while all new construction funds are redirected to the trial courts until a better economy changes the landscape and until a responsible party like DGS ( the state department of general services) takes over all judicial branch real estate holdings, construction and building maintenance, much like the counties did before the giant sucking sound was created.

Let’s not lose focus that the muppets continue to heartily endorse the worlds most expensive courthouse in Long Beach as not their responsibility when everyone connected to the project should be fired. Instead, the judicial council has embraced the deal and alleged that the legislature would pay for it. Of course, intentionally timed to confuse  this issue is term limits. Out with the old legislature and in with the new legislature where AOC lobbyists falsely claim that it was the previous legislature that made the commitment to pay where no such commitment was made.

The reason they won’t be fired is because the generous legislative exemptions given to public contract code regarding conflicts of interest and new construction stands to make a select few judicial branch entities and quite a few local long beach pols very comfortable with their personal (conflicts of) interests invested in this project.

Let’s also not lose focus that the governors proposed budget actually increases both the judicial council’s budget and the ranks of AOC staff while only the courts bare the brunt of devastating cuts. Damn the torpedoes and the trial courts, the AOC pushed through several dozen budget change proposals and is currently in the midst of a SEC recommended reorganization that will leave it bigger and better funded while all trial courts continue to experience budgetary brutalization.

Their diversion for this maneuver is to continue to advocate that the branch get 250 million more in general fund money and that another 200 million of construction money currently directed to the trial courts be redirected back to the AOC. Of course, the judicial council’s ethics folks have also opined that it is a breach of a judges ethics to advocate otherwise and have put into place at the CJP a number of people expecting new courthouses to ensure you other judges, voices of reason keep your traps shut.

If the other two branches were truly serious about witnessing the AOC be reformed in accordance with the SEC reports findings, it would slash the Judicial Council’s budget by more than 50% forcing them to implement the SEC report. Instead, the report is laid out in front of all of us while the AOC convinces the muppets on the council that the only suitable cuts are no cuts whatsoever and dismantles recommendations one at a time, calling the process deliberative.

It seems that the latest controversies are being brewed by the AOC in concert with the Sacramento Bee’s editorial board. First there was SacBee’s version of Rodney King‘s “can’t we all just get along?”  After a few years of their journalists pummeling the judicial council and the AOC over their waste and mismanagement, their editorial board seems to wish to suddenly put it all behind them for the good of the branch. Of course those of us on the reform side are having a difficult time swallowing this sideshow argument manufactured to distract legislators attention from the real issues right in the midst of budget negotiations. Other than this editorial board commentary, nothing written in the SacBee previous to this Rodney King tribute editorial would suggest that this is a sound course of action.

Of course, this sideshow is being manufactured to discourage judges and attorneys alike taking their case to legislators to correct this flawed system and to encourage you all to get in line behind Mr. Jasperson and Mr. Jahr.

Or else.

Anyways, that sideshow didn’t get a whole lot of traction, so in typical JC /AOC fashion they encourage the SacBee’s editorial board to manufacture another divide and conquer strategy around electronic court reporting as an effective method to eliminating hundreds of unnecessary jobs of people who are ostensibly overpaid anyways. It is our opinion that for every 10 court reporters that lose their jobs that an appellate justice should also lose their job because without a true and accurate copy of the record to appeal, there will be that much less work for the good ol boys in the appellate court system. If you downsize court reporters into electronic recordings, go the extra mile and permanently eliminate appellate justice seats in the appellate courts.

So what would save the courts more? Eliminating the often abused assigned judges program or court reporters? 23 states have already eliminated their assigned judges programs but the only reason it continues in California is that these assigned judges are off-budget judges for local courts. It’s tantamount to getting free money from the AOC.

Sitting in our computer is a 2008 audio transcript from a courthouse in another state. As described to us, the laws of this state require that all matters be recorded. This state lacks an appellate court system requiring appeals to be heard by different judges and has only a supreme court as the ultimate arbiter of case law. As we mentioned earlier, the laws of this state in question requires that all matters be recorded but has developed and embraced no standard for doing so. So the audio transcript of this “trial” consisted of a $29.00 cassette tape recorder sitting on the judges bench and that is their accepted standard. Listening to the audio recordings, you can only hear the words of the judge because the recorder sits on his bench. No other spoken words by any party to the trial are even discernible and are all barely audible. Due to an error by the judge in composing the record by hitting the record button, four hours and 21 minutes of testimony are missing from the record according to the judges own note on the recording made after he remembered to press record. This record can’t be appealed. Due to a recording being made and no standards imposed on actual recording or recording quality, this court system considers this record good enough to not have a trial de novo.

It was in listening to this recording and subsequently listening to a number of multi-track recordings made in other courtrooms that we’re taking the position that audio recordings are not good enough for an appeal able record to be made. The 61 comments made by court reporters and transcribers made in the electronic court reporting article overwhelmingly support our conclusion and no one can accuse us of not being on the cutting edge of technology. As far as we see, the cutting edge of technology in court reporting lies in real time type software reporting systems such as caseviewnet, livenote, bridge, CT summation and other real time court reporting systems that present the actual transcription in real time on a screen for all to see. This technology permits an accurate record to not only be made but be witnessed by all involved.  I think it is important to note that we’re not at all opposed to audio or video recordings made in a courtroom. What we are opposed to is making these systems a part of the official record without having a real time type transcript to decipher them and that a realtime type transcript serves a number of purposes well beyond a copy of the record.

Some courtrooms are noisy spaces where people shuffle papers under their microphones. Where people actually come to court with colds, sneezing or coughs because they have to. Oftentimes these other noises, along with attorneys having their backs to the audience prevents the audience from following along. People that are hard at hearing are doubly challenged and assisted audio listening does not exist in every courtroom all of the time. Real time reporting overcomes most of these challenges when a monitor hangs from the roof above the bar for all to witness. It makes an accountable, appealable record and serves as a viable mechanism to more justices in the courts of appeal keeping their own jobs.

So go forth California and embrace technology. But make sure you embrace technology that works for the people. Recording as the sole source of record does not cut it and this has been universally recognized by courts  that went in this direction and then went back to court reporters. Other courts around the country have not made the change because they just don’t care about the record. Any copy is good enough.

It’s not good enough for the people of California

The message that everyone should glean from this post is to watch out for sideshows and controversies manufactured in the AOC’s ministry of truth and public enlightenment that are carried out by print media in particular that stand to cause your courts more financial pain. Don’t permit the divide and conquer strategy. Embrace the court family that has historically worked for over a hundred years to deliver justice. Move forward with reforms, not backwards with boondoggles.

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