A letter by Judge Kenneth So on Judicial Council letterhead dated March 7 was sent yesterday to every judge in California in a “Court News Update” email. Judge So claims that we’ve given you misleading information about how the AOC runs its business. We disagree, and we can back up what we said—with the AOC’s own numbers.
Judge So claims that the “assertion” that the AOC has laid off only 10 of its full-time employees, while giving full-time positions to 52 former temps and contractors, is somehow misleading.
How? Ms. Hershkowitz said precisely that in her response to Kevin McCormick’s inquiry, dated December 20, 2013.
But Judge So claims that we should really measure AOC staff downsizing not from the date the Judicial Council “took ownership” of the SEC report in 2012, but from the AOC’s high-water mark of 1121.41 full-time equivalent positions on July 1, 2011.
Fair enough. Let’s pick that date. If you look at the AOC’s own staffing metrics for the day before—June 30, 2011—available at http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/jc-121311-itemM.pdf, the number of filled full-time equivalent positions was 834.66. These numbers are consistent with those provided by the AOC to Judge Kevin McCormick in an email dated August 9, 2011.
Today, the AOC claims that the total number of filled authorized FTE positions is 704.59. Check out the latest AOC staffing metrics at http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/jc-20140220-adoc.pdf, p. 14.
Comparing authorized positions tells us very little. Authorized positions don’t get laid off: people get laid off. So let’s compare filled authorized positions. If you go by the AOC’s own numbers, the AOC is down the equivalent of 130.07 full-time employees from its historic high in 2011. That’s only a 16 percent decrease, using their numbers, not the 29.6 percent cut cited by Judge So, who presumably relied on numbers he also got from the AOC.
And how did the AOC accomplish the 16 percent decrease? What the AOC records reveal is that fifty-seven people qualified for the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program (VSIP)—in other words, they got a golden handshake. The fact is that in fiscal year 2011-2012, the AOC actually only laid off 36 people. In fiscal year 2012-2013, the AOC laid off exactly two people. These aren’t our numbers; these are theirs. (See http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/jc-rec-45.pdf.)
Compare those figures with what happened in the Los Angeles Superior Court alone. L.A. lost 24 percent of its budgeted staff positions between 2008 and 2013. On just one day last June, the L.A. Superior Court actually laid off 177 people and demoted 139 others. Check out the press release at http://www.lasuperiorcourt.org/courtnews/Uploads/142013614870NewsReleaseLayoffsfinal6-13-13.pdf.
The only way you can get to the dramatic decrease that Judge So cites is to disbelieve the AOC’s staffing numbers and accept that they really had over 1100 employees. The 1121.41 number he gives actually comes from the SEC report (http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/SEC_Final_Report_May_2012_withcoverletter.pdf), at p. 294—not from the AOC’s own “staffing metrics.” The difference between the SEC report’s numbers and the AOC’s numbers comes from temps and contractors that the AOC didn’t bother to report.
If this exercise proves anything it’s that the AOC’s numbers shouldn’t be trusted, even by the chair of the Judicial Council’s Policy Coordination and Liaison Committee. We can think of one good way to resolve the debate between Judge So and the Alliance: a thorough, neutral audit by the California State Auditor. That audit will be an important step toward restoring trust in the management of the judicial branch.
Commentary from JCW-
You’ll note that the AOC can rarely rely on the same judicial talking head to be sandbagged by AOC misinformation and take one for the team more than once.
Okay, so Justice Bruiniers is probably an exception.
This was Judge Kenneth So’s opportunity to get run over by a fact train. Just remember he gets 550 million dollars worth of new digs for his trouble.
A SPECIAL THANKS goes out to the joint legislative audit committee for todays’ UNANIMOUS vote to perform a top to bottom audit of both the judicial council and the administrative office of the courts. Other heroes are the men and women of AFSCME, SEIU, CCRA and the Alliance of California Judges whose collective voice was deafening up in the halls of Sacramento. Judge Jahr didn’t have a snowballs chance in hell in that room and we can probably be expecting his resignation soon along with a few sudden AOC management retirements and some jumping ship to greener pastures.
While we all want to see change and something more than rearranging the same pieces on the same checkerboard, this agency has no intention of quitting their abuse until they are economically dismantled by the legislature. Of course if AOC employees took what they know to the state auditor before she showed up for the mother of all audits, she would know where to find the dirt and there might be lots of room for new promotions when a few people end up in federal prison.