Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Posted on April 6, 2013

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April 5, 2013

Dear Members and Others,Wednesday the Assembly Budget Subcommittee tasked with oversight of the judicial branch budget met. We attach a piece by reporter Cheryl Miller of The Recorder that details what occurred. The bottom line is that the legislative branch is done giving our current judicial regime a pass on its repeated instances of mismanagement, profligate spending and misplaced priorities which have resulted in a lack of access to justice in our local communities.

The Alliance applauds Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Bob Blumenfield for taking a courageous stand in support of the local courts and for attending this meeting even though he does not sit on this subcommittee. His presence and insightful observations confirm what Alliance board members have encountered at the Capitol in speaking with legislators — our leadership lacks credibility.

Continuing to insist that CCMS works and praising the architects of this failure in the recently delivered State of the Judiciary speech was not helpful. Arguing that the Long Beach Courthouse was a great deal is not helpful. Engaging in credibility contests with respected State Auditor Elaine Howle and the Legislative Analysts Office is not helpful and fails to make a strong case for entrusting the central bureaucracy with more public dollars.

In that regard we include a link to a new “fact sheet” apparently created by AOC staff in an attempt to blunt the type of criticism leveled at the Long Beach Courthouse debacle by Assemblyman Blumenfield.  The document intentionally overlooks the elephant in the room — if, as the AOC claims, the Long Beach Courthouse is a wonderful deal, why was it necessary to abruptly put 11 other planned and much-needed courthouse projects on hold in order to finance it?

You may recall that “fact sheets” of this ilk were trotted out for CCMS and in opposition to AB 1208, the Trial Court Bill of Rights. We would strongly urge our branch leaders to cautiously reflect on the strategy they have apparently chosen. We would also urge our leaders to reach out to those in the branch who have differing views on these issues and consider a different path. The inescapable fact is that the judicial branch has been marginalized by these repeated failures and that does not bode well for those we serve.

Again, we will continue to keep you informed.

Directors,
Alliance of California Judges
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The Recorder’s LegalPad blogApril 03, 2013

BUDGET CHAIR SLAMS COURTS FOR ‘IRRESPONSIBLE’ SPENDING

[Cheryl Miller]

Wednesday’s hearing of the subcommittee overseeing California courts started off like so many others have -– with another sad recital of the suffering that years of budget cuts have brought to the judiciary.

And then Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield crashed the party.

Blumenfield, D-Van Nuys, is not a regular member of the Assembly budget subcommittee no. 5. He is, however, chairman of the full budget committee. So if he drops in on a subcommittee hearing, he’s going to get people’s attention. And that he did when he told the assembled leaders that their past decisions are not forgotten.

“While the state grappled with a budget crisis, court administrators sometimes have acted fiscally irresponsible even though fiscal responsibility was the mantra of the day, “ Blumenfield said. “We’ve seen a failed computer system with years of cost overruns and nearly $500 million wasted. In the process, the courts took millions from trial courts — sacrificing access to justice — to keep the failed computer project running. This year, the court system will likely enter an agreement and spend $100 million more than we should to build a new courthouse in Long Beach.”

Blumenfield said he isn’t pleased with Los Angeles County Superior Court’s decision to close courthouses and consolidate services either.

“The Legislature has acted to keep court budgeting stable through fees and other solutions,” he continued. “But the court’s requested increases demand an assessment of how responsibly existing budget levels have been used.”

Branch leaders, who didn’t respond to Blumenfield at Wednesday’s hearing, will surely argue that funding has been anything but stable with the significant loss of state general fund dollars. And they would say -– they have said -– that the chief justice and Judicial Council have turned a page on the spending decisions of the past.

But reading between the lines, the Assembly’s top budget official seemed to be saying that if the Legislature does restore any judicial funding, it’s going to come with some serious strings attached. What those conditions might be aren’t clear yet, but they’d probably include requirements that money be spent on increased trial court staffing and re-opened courthouses, things that labor would surely like to see, and not case management systems or electronic recording.

Blumenfield said he also wanted to hear more cost-saving ideas from the branch. “My only request is that your proposals focus on maintaining or improving access to justice,” he said.

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April 3, 2013
Dear Members and Others:

The Directors of the Alliance of California Judges are pleased to announce the formation of our Ethics Committee. The panelists are among the most experienced judicial ethics advisors in the state. Two members of the Committee, Judge Julie Conger and Justice Tom Hollenhorst, received CJA’s Jefferson award for their contributions to judicial education, primarily in the area of ethics education. Both are past chairs of the CJA Ethics Committee where our third advisor and experienced ethics instructor, Judge Dodie Harman, also served. Justice Hollenhorst is the past chair of the CJER Governing Board.

This panel of experts will provide prompt, accurate ethics advice while assuring confidentiality. Each will poll the other committee members on all advice given to ensure committee consensus on any future action. Advice will be available to all judges, whether members of the Alliance or not.

Judges may contact committee members: Judge Dodie Harman, San Luis Obispo Superior Court, (805)781-5936; Judge Julie Conger, Alameda Superior Court Ret., sitting by assignment, (707)331-0993; Justice Thomas Hollenhorst, Fourth District Court of Appeal, (951)782-2627.

Directors, Alliance of California Judges

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From JCW-

As unionman so aptly pointed out, the AOC has released two controversial friday night blue light specials that should have everyone up in arms. The intent of a friday night blue light special from the Ministry of Truth & Public Enlightenment is to deter public and branch interest as well as press coverage – and it usually – but not always – works. We’ve seen these propaganda pieces called fact checks (link) before and much like the current one, it is what they omit that really matters.

What really matters is that this is the world’s most expensive courthouse.

The second blue light special apparently seeks to interfere with the first amendment rights of judges (link) by providing guidance on permissible speech. Given the creation of a new ACJ ethics committee, I’d be curious to get their take on this, wouldn’t you?

And what can we say about Bob Blumenfeld? Those astute observations are worthy of a journey to JCW’s hall of fame no?