The Arrogance of Unchecked Powers

Posted on May 25, 2013

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Most of us would agree that we’re all here today and that this site exists as an oversized middle finger to those that hold themselves above the law both on the Judicial Council as well as the AOC. This past week at the suggestion of speaker Perez, an assembly budget subcommittee would recommend that an additional hundred million dollars be added to the judicial branch budget and that this hundred million dollars be used to stave off cuts and courthouse closures t the local court level.

For their part the AOC has already earmarked about half of that towards increased costs in pensions and benefits and appears to be holding the line on any further cuts to their own operations. A hundred million given to the Judicial Council to go only to the trial courts will only partially get to the trial courts while the AOC hires more people to show how that money was transparently spent.  That kind of accounting accountability requires a whole new department under the tried and true and wholly capable John Judnick and his internal audits department. You know, the gentleman charged with ferreting out whistleblowers and ensuring that they’re soon unemployed and making bad things, like evidence of judicial branch crimes vanish into thin air.

We heard that their recent conversion of IT employees would be competitive positions announced on the AOC’s website were either publicly posted for a period of minutes where we never saw those announcements or more likely as we observed, you could count the positions publicly announced on just one hand because they were straight temp to perm conversions that were not publicly announced. While I suppose it is well within most any employers right to convert a tried and tested temp employee to a permanent employee, it is not well within any public agencies right to mislead about positions being publicly announced as competitive when they clearly weren’t competitively announced.

As transparent as an iron curtain, indeed.

As many have suggested and we agree, the Judicial Council and the AOC’s own budget needs to be cut in half, all court construction should be frozen and all monies committed to those endeavors need to be diverted directly to the trial courts by legislation. The arrogance of continued unchecked powers upon both the judicial council and the AOC under a mantra of them being the leadership of a co-equal branch of government is precisely what our legislators need to reign in.

It isn’t enough to say that you want a hundred million “with strings attached” to go directly to the trial courts because experience has shown that the JC\AOC will support itself by taking a pound of flesh out of the courts elsewhere. What needs to occur – and there is virtually a unanimous consensus among both judges across the state and trial court workers across the state is that the JC\AOC budget as well as their construction and IT follies need to be reigned in via the legislative checks and balances of the purse strings.

The ability to dream up this stuff should be curtailed by legislative unfunding the crack pipe dreamers jobs. It is one thing to perpetually ask the AOC to be accountable for over five years while giving them about the same amount of money to blow on waste every year while they starve the courts. It is entirely another to demand accountability by choking the funding to those who time and time again have blown that funding.   Does the AOC really need 250 people, mostly developers, in their IT department?? How about eliminating all of those positions so that you’re less inclined to give them half billion dollar marching orders?

Does the AOC really need over a hundred attorneys pulling strings with law firms and the courts alike, shaping legal outcomes with the implied threat of the budget axe, all while sending all legal matters out of house? Couldn’t you manage just your core function with just a dozen attorneys?? Couldn’t you provide core IT services with two dozen engineers, technicians and helpdesk personnel?

The answer is Yes. Yes you can makes these subtle changes to the judicial branch budget, boost services to the public and lose the dead weight over at the AOC.

These include some of the items highlighted in the SEC report yet ignored by the judicial branch power brokers because money is both influence and power.

It is clear that as the AOC moves forward with their compensation study to justify their new structure and higher pay while trial courts continue layoffs that the strategic delay to reforms known as the Strategic Evaluation Committee came out of the gate with a bang but passed into the night with a whimper. The net result is a bunch of people at the AOC had new business cards printed up and that was the full impact of reforms. And Steven Jahr promises more of the same if the legislature would just part ways with an extra hundred million.

A word to our legislators: You’ve been bamboozled for five years. New leadership has not brought about any meaningful change. No reforms have been enacted that would prevent future boondoggles. They are less transparent and less accountable than ever before with public information requests being rerouted to an appellate court judge who only accepts snail mail requests and then ignores them.

It is time to do something bold to reign in the arrogance of unchecked powers.

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