AOC Priorities are not those of the courts

Posted on April 10, 2014

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The AOC recently put together a 21-page spreadsheet listing all that it does. You can read it on the Judicial Branch website here.

The AOC counts the following among the services it provides:

  • “Support to Civics Education program to improve civic learning and public understanding of the judicial branch including the California Task Force on K-12 Civics Learning.”
  • “Local Blue Ribbon Commissions training and technical assistance.”
  • “Management of content strategy, publishing, and metrics evaluation for social media channels including YouTube and Twitter and consultation with other judicial branch entities on their programs.”
  • “Photography support for judicial council and judicial branch programs, projects, and initiatives.”

You may note that the AOC does not perform any of the following functions:

  • Issue protective orders in domestic violence cases.
  • Sign search warrants.
  • Decide which parent gets custody of a child.
  • Rule on juror hardship claims.
  • Set bail.
  • Manage asbestos litigation.

The AOC doesn’t do any of those things. We do. And every dollar that the AOC spends on civics education or photography support or monitoring Twitter feeds is a dollar that isn’t going to hire clerks and reporters to work with us in the trial courts.

This latest document is hardly the defense of the AOC that it was intended to be. To the contrary: It’s an indictment. It’s a handy list of redundant and trivial bureaucratic activities that do nothing to improve public access to our courts. If the AOC wants to know why the Legislature and the Governor don’t take it seriously, it need look no farther than its own website.

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A note from JCW:

In case you were wondering why the AOC launched this link that alleges to point out all of the services they offer the courts consider that they are currently undergoing a comprehensive 700k+ self funded compensation study that is supposed to come to the conclusion that an organization that provides all of these services to the courts on a statewide basis is far more valuable than they are being paid for. As the alliance of California judges has pointed out above, there should be more than a few things that they shouldn’t do.

In our mind, the AOC should not be an administrative arm of a judicial council that only has the benefit of questionable oversight about two days per month. I say questionable oversight because it is the AOC themselves that drafts judicial council meeting agendas alongside the executive and planning committee. Rather, all of the services that the AOC offers are already provided by many courts, oftentimes better and far less expensive than the AOC’s approach to providing those same services. In collaborating with each other, the courts can write out the AOC’s exorbitant clawbacks of limited funding.

If the AOC wishes to exist, it should do so by permitting the courts to trickle up financial support for their endeavors rather than taking a huge chunk of judicial branch budget up front and permitting what is left to trickle down to the trial courts.

However, the management and faux directors of the Administrative Office of the Courts could never justify their sky-high pay or their free san francisco parking privileges without presenting a byzantine map of governance that places them at the top of the branch food chain offering a myriad of court duplicative services.