The Judicial Council Technology Task Force – Banana Republic Style

Posted on February 11, 2013

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We called it an oligarchy. Ray Pensador said they’re turning our judicial system into something akin to a Banana Republic.  Here is proof-positive that we’re both correct.

 

 
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February 11, 2013

Dear Members and Others,

You probably have heard the expression, “The more things change, the more they seem to stay the same.” Well, indeed that appears to be true with the creation of yet another Judicial Council task force that will “develop a strategic plan for court technology.”

Some of you may wonder why this is happening when the Chairman of the powerful Judicial Council’s Rules Committee recently announced the reduction of committees and task forces. Although the Alliance is unable to answer that question, we cannot fail to make certain observations which should concern all of us as we attempt to rehabilitate the branch’s reputation and image with the Governor’s Office and the Legislature.

We need not take the time to restate in detail the colossal and embarrassing computer fiasco presided over by the Council and AOC staff known as CCMS. The bottom line is that over a half billion public dollars were wasted on a system that was ill conceived, poorly executed and doomed from the start due to, among other things, competency issues. This is not just our opinion. This was the conclusion made by respected State Auditor Elaine Howle after an exhaustive audit of the program, an audit that our branch leaders attempted to kill as “duplicative.”

We also should remember that, but for legislative intervention and years of vocal opposition from judges of the Alliance and others, public monies would still be flowing into CCMS. In fact, branch leaders continue to claim that CCMS works. They describe CCMS as a “Ferrari” for which we do not have the resources to fill the tank. So, there our valuable investment sits in a garage with no ability to go anywhere fast.

Which brings us to the new task force. The Chief Justice has appointed Judge James Herman to chair the task force. One of CCMS’s most vocal supporters, Judge Herman has sat on virtually every committee and task force connected to CCMS. In addition to this new task force, which will report to the Judicial Council’s Technology Committee, Judge Herman coincidentally also chairs that committee. So, in effect, he will be reporting to himself.

Making matters that much more efficient, the following members of the new task force also serve on Judge Herman’s Technology Committee: the Hon. Terrence Bruniers, Hon. Judith Ashmann-Gerst, Hon. Ira Kaufman and the Hon. Robert Moss. These members will likewise be reporting to themselves.

Staffing the new task force is Jessica Craven, who works in the AOC’s Information Technology Services Office. That is quite convenient as Ms. Craven also serves as the AOC staffer to Judge Herman’s Technology Committee. You should be aware that, prior to Ms. Craven’s new assignment to the IS division, she was assigned as a Senior Business Analyst in the Southern Regional Office which was tasked with developing and implementing CCMS. As of July 8, 2011, Ms. Craven was employed in the “CCMS Division,” which sometime thereafter morphed into the “IS Division.”

Clearly technology issues need to be addressed. Those early adopter courts which relied on CCMS being a game changer are now left with an outdated program which is expensive to maintain and operate, with no ability to purchase a replacement due to budget cuts.

It is shameful that our branch wasted over half a billion dollars on a failed computer system. We must take bold and immediate steps to restore our credibility with the Governor, Legislature, Legislative Analyst’s Office, the State Auditor and the Department of Finance. Creating “new” task forces and committees populated with the same leaders who presided over CCMS is not a winning strategy. Nor will this shell game impress the smart and sophisticated legislators and staff members who witnessed the CCMS disaster up close and personal.

As another example of how little things have changed in the operations of the AOC and Judicial Council, we offer a news report from KCRA in Sacramento about travel expenses for Judicial Council meetings. The story notes that more than $50,000 was spent last year on hotel accommodations for Judicial Council members. If these handpicked court leaders were effective stewards of the courts’ limited resources perhaps some travel expenses for their meetings could be justified, but at a time when the courts continue to be asked to do more with less shouldn’t we see a greater effort on their part to reduce these expenses? A direct link to the news video appears here.

These are just the latest examples of why the Alliance remains determined to bring democratic representation to the Judicial Council. “Speaking with one voice” only perpetuates and ensures that past mistakes will continue to be repeated. The continued unchecked spending of the Judicial Council, and the creation and operation of task forces that fail to provide meaningful oversight of projects like CCMS, further illustrate that these appointed court leaders do not embrace meaningful reform. The Alliance will continue to advocate for real change on behalf of our local courts.

Directors,

Alliance of California Judges