Dan Walters: Independent audits “fully acquit” alliance judges

Posted on January 13, 2015

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We pass on to you the latest comments from respected political columnist Dan Walters. We want to thank those of you who have joined with us as members. As Mr. Walters points out, this was done at no small risk and, while many sat by, you joined in the effort. Your voices are being heard — a wider audience now knows the truth about the difficulties facing the judiciary. The truth cannot be suppressed and distorted forever, no matter how hard some people in the branch have tried to do just that by attacking the messenger, claiming the problems have already been addressed, or comparing the inexcusable waste to a “bucket of water in Lake Tahoe.”
The Alliance has pointed out the problems and now we will point out the solutions. They will in no way threaten branch autonomy. Quite the contrary, if adopted our solutions will strengthen the branch and ensure that the oft-broken promise of secure and adequate funding for all courts, and for all necessary programs, will be realized. This will be done by utilizing the talents and experience of elected judges, not unelected bureaucrats and appointed Judicial Council members. We are hard at work crafting that plan.

Thank you again for your continued support. If you are not a member, consider adding your name to the list of more than 500 judges, court commissioners and retired judges committed to finding a solution. Much more must be done in the days ahead.

Directors, Alliance of California Judges

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JCW: “The bucket of water” that Rosenberg refers to is more like ten thousand gallons of used motor oil dumped into lake tahoe and he knows that. Much like the rest of the bobbleheads on the council, he seeks to minimize the amount of damage both he and his associates have done to the judicial branch with their extreme lack of oversight – or worse, outright complicity in that gross mismanagement.

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Because Sacbee appears to be putting forth a pay gate to read a single article of public importance, we managed to get a transcript of the text.

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The Alliance of California Judges, a feisty band of rebels in robes, has complained for five years that the state’s judicial bureaucracy had become bloated, overpaid, arrogantly dismissive and incompetent.

The complaints largely fell on deaf ears at the San Francisco-based Judicial Council and Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) and in the Governor’s Office.

Two chief justices, Ron George and successor Tani Cantil-Sakauye, tended to dismiss the judicial rebels as malcontents who didn’t understand the big picture and who were muddying their pleas for more operational money.

The infighting has been downright nasty, but ultimately, truth won out. Last week, the state auditor’s office issued a blistering report that fundamentally confirmed everything that the rebels had been saying.

Auditor Elaine Howle found that the AOC indeed had lavished high salaries and fringe benefits on itself, beyond those of other state employees, and wasted money on unnecessary expenditures while trial courts throughout the state were being compelled to close their doors for a lack of money.

Howle also confirmed that the Judicial Council, which is supposed to oversee the nation’s largest court system, allowed the AOC’s bureaucracy to run amok.

Howle’s agency has criticized the Judicial Council and the AOC previously for, among other things, wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on an inoperable statewide case-management system and fumbling construction of the Long Beach courthouse.

Taken together, the independent audits fully acquit the Alliance of California Judges, whose members courageously risked their judicial reputations by challenging the court hierarchy.

It is, in a sense, the unforeseen consequence of a state assumption of court finances some years back, believed at the time to be a welcome relief from dependence on county governments.

Overnight, 58 court systems became one, creating a massive new state agency that, it’s now evident, the Judicial Council and the AOC were ill-equipped to manage. And it was complicated by an assumption that the courts were an independent branch of government, free from direct control by the governor and the Legislature, even though they control how much money the courts receive.

What now? Despite the auditor’s criticism and Cantil-Sakauye’s assurances, it’s unlikely that the judicial hierarchy will reform itself. In fact, Howle says the responses she’s received to date are inadequate.

Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature could try to compel reform through the budget process, but they would risk being accused of violating the courts’ independence. It’s not unlike the flap between Brown and the supposedly independent University of California over financial priorities.

Whatever happens, the status quo is unacceptable.

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Yes, Dan it is unacceptable. But we’ve been pointing out the management heavy bloated bureaucracy for over five years and the judicial council has chosen to take no action whatsoever to trim the management fat. Moreover, the Judicial Council staff offices look for ways to charge items to the courts or court funds before charging their own accounts. It is the primary way they are able to have these year-end spending sprees where they spend all of what is left on their own accounts on shiny new toys.

We’ll have more on that later in the week.

JCW