Alliance again asks for a top to bottom audit of the AOC to restore trust

Posted on January 27, 2014

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From JCW: It is long overdue. For nearly five years there have been specific allegations regarding the AOC’s operations that have made their way to the state auditor. Yet the state auditor has not been charged with investigating those specific allegations because it requires that either the legislature or the chief justice to call for such an audit.

We know how AOC audits were resisted under King George’s tenure and we’ve watched in horror as over a half of a billion dollars was wasted on a contract that must have been written up by those at NSA headquarters because no one has been allowed to view the contract.

Instead, the state auditor has been charged with looking at the periphery of the AOC’s operations and every time has come up with serious questions about the management of the organization that simply begs more questions and undermines the confidence in branch leadership. Instead of taking any of this seriously, the AOC knows there are no repercussions that will impact them so they re-arrange deck chairs while the music plays on – on an already sunk titanic.

The council and their administrative offices have no credibility anywhere in any quarters outside of their own four walls. While the budget may land at the top of the chief justices todo list today, let’s not forget that the real top item on her todo list is to usurp the role of the executive branch and to educate our children.  Restoring access to justice has been lip service compared to what she has accomplished in bringing parties together to educate our children. To say she has been an ineffectual leader is a gross understatement of the facts. She is a King George lemming running for the cliff, like most of the other insider ilk, with the intent on taking the branch down with them. Feckless, indeed.

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The Governor couldn’t be clearer. He doesn’t trust the way our branch handles its money.  “We’ve given courts more,” he told the media earlier this month. “We want them to be able to manage more effectively, quite frankly.”His proposed budget drives the point home. He’s giving our branch an additional $105 million for the upcoming fiscal year—far short of the $612 million that the Chief Justice was looking for, let alone the $266 million she claims we need just to maintain our current levels of service.

The Legislature doesn’t trust our management either. The legislatively mandated termination of CCMS, the requirement that Judicial Council committees develop open-meeting rules, the criticisms leveled by the State Auditor against the AOC only last month for “pervasive deficiencies” in procurement reporting— all these actions by the legislative branch, and more, reflect this ongoing mistrust.

We need to do something bold to restore our credibility with the other branches of government, and we need to do it soon.

We’ve asked the Chief Justice to join us in calling for the Legislature to authorize a complete audit of all the funds administered by the AOC. A copy of our letter to the Chief Justice is available at this link.

This is not our first call for cooperation between the ACJ and the Council. Over the years, the ACJ has tried time and time again to work together with the Council and the AOC on behalf of our beleaguered branch.  Time and time again, we’ve been shot down.

In a letter to State Auditor Elaine Howle dated September 13, 2013, the AOC’s chief administrative officer, Curt Soderland, wrote: “As always, we welcome audits of the judicial branch.”  We hope his words weren’t empty ones. We ask the Chief Justice and Judge Jahr to stand by their pledge of greater transparency and accountability. We ask them to join us in calling for a comprehensive and meaningful audit of the AOC.

Directors, Alliance of California Judges

Alliance of California Judges
1817 Capitol Ave., Sacramento, CA  95811