Opinion: Educating Children is not a core mission of the JC\AOC

Posted on August 7, 2013

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The judicial branch is supposed to be adjudicating cases. That is their primary function. Since 1998 California’s judicial branch, in particular the judicial council and the AOC have continuously expanded their field of jurisdiction.

As an example, the judicial branch tells the legislature they need more courthouses. While both counties and the Department of General Services had previously built courthouses, the state legislature crafted legislation that created a brand new construction arm that then heavily lobbied the legislature to ensure that the laws that apply to everyone else do not apply to court construction performed by the AOC.

In particular, there are no rules prohibiting the insiders from owning a piece of property that is later sold to the AOC at an exorbitant price to build a courthouse upon. In fact, there is a judicial branch exemption from these common sense no-conflict requirements. There are no rules prohibiting insiders from owning any one of the contractors or subcontractors doing the work for the courts in construction or facilities maintenance and grossly overcharging for this work.

As we have honed in on a few of these about to be purchased questionable land deals, many of those same land deals would end up being the courthouses canceled by the AOC. But don’t kid yourself. The arrogant in charge are still pushing through with questionable real estate deals while media companies large and small all observe these transactions from afar. And they’re watching very closely, gathering information on the owners behind the land deals.

That isn’t the only area where the AOC has expanded their field of jurisdiction for which they have no expertise. Court case management systems and software development is another area where they lack expertise but it did not stop them from raiding the very same trial court trust funds that keep the court doors open to launch “Ronald George’s bridge to nowhere”.  When every red flag opportunity arose that should have encouraged the AOC to cancel the project as far back as 2006, the judicial council and the AOC argued essentially that they’re too far down the rabbit hole and  that too much money has been expended thus far to just toss in the towel. Starting in 2010 we would start hearing Justice Bruniers take center stage and declare that one of the most important reasons that we must push forward with CCMS is because “we own the code”. 

Personally, I’m beginning to think the reason Justice Bruniers was a judge and now a justice is because he couldn’t cut the mustard as private counsel. This theory is supported by his inability to review or read and understand contractual language that says we don’t own the code, which we would later hear at the beginning of 2012, only after Justice Bruniers strongly advocated the diversion of another 8.7 million dollars of trial court money to decommission the system and salvage the code.  This flub, along with the AOC’s refusal to produce a non-redacted copy of the deloitte contract for public review serves to reinforce this theory. Instead of being able to prove the justice to be an imbecile via the (likely) plain language contract, we all get to speculate that he’s an imbecile because he had to flip-flop.

And where did the 8.7 million dollars go to salvage the code go if someone else owns the code and there is nothing to salvage? Who knows. The money was probably used to renew servers in the AOC and appellate courts datacenters in one of those year-end purchasing binges as there is no evidence to support a return of those funds to the courts.

While our justice system falls apart and we release violent sex offenders on an unsuspecting public due to AB109 realignment and prison overcrowding, the correctional corporation of america is waiting with open arms and open beds in other states to house these offenders.

Instead, Jerry Brown has told counties that are also under federal court orders to reduce their own overcrowding that they are responsible for dealing with these parole violators. So in San Joaquin County, violent sex offenders are released within 24 hours of a parole violation and are openly telling parole officers that they dare them to try to do anything about it knowing they can’t. So should the counties be reaching out to CCOA to take these or other inmates in jails? Its anyone’s guess, but instead of expending what little political capital they have left in the halls of Sacramento to reverse this situation and change outcomes, our chief justice has doubled down on the long term bet that educating our children, people who will be voters by the time this chief justice is to be re-elected.

Priorities are important aren’t they?

Instead of changing a system that is putting a black mark upon the branch, our chief justice is abdicating that responsibility and expanding the AOC’s field of jurisdiction yet again to create new commissions and new committees to ensure our children get a good civics education that highlights the third branch of government because obviously, the current civics curriculum isn’t doing the job.

Besides, she needs someone to vote for her in ten years…. better to start shaping those hearts and minds now so that they’re better able to deal with that firestorm when it hits because priorities are important.

Justice isn’t a priority because we’re spending both money and political capital on Tani’s Follies. 

The Strategic Evaluation Committee did an exhaustive review of the AOC that took entirely too long. The conclusions of the SEC report parallel what we’ve said all along. The AOC is in businesses expanding their field of jurisdiction into areas where they (rightfully) have no place at the table. They tell you they are a service organization and end each email with “serving the courts for the benefit of all Californians” yet it is those same courts and Californians that they screw at every given opportunity.

With an army of lobbyists in Sacramento that includes all of the people that they spread cash around to, it is likely not going to change either absent an offsetting lobbying effort by those of us who knows what is really going on or a serious investigative media effort that exposes this stuff and begins to ask our legislators, both current and former some tough questions and demanding answers.

To date, nobody but whistle blowers has been held accountable for anything. This should be a solid indication that our systems are broken and in dire need of immediate and radical change.

We would like to see all media put the pressure on the judicial council and the AOC. Those investigative costs can get really expensive though and moreso with a branch of government that has an obscure rule of court that does not entitle them to any public records and makes them fight at every turn. And if the media happens to be dissatisfied, they can take their case to an AOC-owned courtroom and in front of an AOC-owned judge and be assured of the outcome the AOC is looking for, after all, it is about a dozen judges and justices that manage such litigation in the background and they have all the right friends in all the right places to ensure they never lose such a case.

So how much did the CNN\CIR yearlong investigation actually cost the non-profit and the media gorilla? If you figure cameramen, reporters, journalists, investigators and interns, along with all the expenses of traveling all over the state and making public records requests, we’re guessing that costs were upwards of a quarter million dollars and would be substantially more with the secretive judicial branch.

We have previously suggested that people donate generously to the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting and tell their stories. While we continue to make that recommendation, we would also suggest that a fund be established solely for this purpose. A line of credit to cover the investigative costs, if you will. It could be managed by a union. It could be managed by a mutual benefit group or it could be managed by the media company that made this site a public interest project. In fact, each entity could create their own fund and coordinate benefits to ensure the investigation does not leave the media out of pocket and gets accomplished.

Educating children is not a core mission of the Judicial Council or the AOC. There are lots of businesses they should get out of like construction and software development, which ride high on the government fraud watch lists. Educating our children is a line of business they should not even engage in and if they do, legislators will be quick to point out that the branch must have too much money to be able to spend it on something that is not their core mission. They will be at a loss in explaining how they can lay off thousands of court workers and close hundreds of courtrooms and courthouses around the state, yet still have an extra million or two to ensure that a childs civics education comes with a “Vote for Tani” message.

Change is long overdue. Reigning in the Judicial Council and the AOC’s fields of jurisdiction is long overdue. A comprehensive investigation into the construction and software programs is long overdue. Transparency and accountability is long overdue. And today is as good as any day in suggesting that we bring it on.

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