Playing the long game in avoiding accountability ?

Posted on October 3, 2015

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When it comes to the judicial council, you can count us as their biggest skeptic. We bust out in laughter any time any new committee is created because generally, without looking at the roster, we generally know that a majority of members are going to be trusted insiders that are going to be doing the bidding of the chief justice and the executive and planning committee.

These trusted insiders sit in most committees and make up most rosters. While a more democratic way of making appointments among 1800 judges and justices and another hundred and fifty or so trial court executives might be a rule that says you can only sit on one committee at most, you can find some of these members sitting on 8-10 committees. It makes you wonder how they actually get their day job done.

So about the time we launched this site, they created another committee and we laughed.

But many of the names in the roster weren’t what we would have considered a majority of trusted insiders. Sure, there were a few but we did not know the others. We just assumed they would be sucked over to the dark side and neutered into oblivion. Because neutered into oblivion is essentially where most committees are. We did a say it like it is parody post about an article written by Justice Richard Huffman(link). Honestly, we think of it as some of our best work and the reason we called it a parody of sorts is because it represents the composition of the committees and the council itself and the iron-fisted approach to top-down governance while professing a most democratic institution.

The committee we laughed at this time when it was created was the trial court budget advisory committee. According to courts.ca.gov, the following represents the charge of this committee.

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TCBAC provides input on the trial court budget process for the benefit of all trial courts statewide and to propose recommendations to the Judicial Council on trial court funding consistent with council goals. In carrying out this duty, the advisory committee shall consider the following: 

  • Make recommendations on trial court budget priorities to guide the development of the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The advisory committee considers all relevant factors including:
    • Input provided by trial court leadership advisory committees concerning budget priorities;
    • Input submitted by trial courts;
    • Feedback from members of the public, including any designated trial court employee representatives;  
    • The fiscal condition of the state;
    • Other factors and trends affecting the trial courts and the state; and
    • The progress of the trial courts in meeting strategic and operational goals established by the Judicial Council.
  • Make recommendations on the allocation of trial court funding, to include any changes to existing methodologies for allocating trial court budget augmentations and reductions.
  • Make recommendations, as appropriate, on budget policies and procedures.
  • Further participate in the budget development process as requested by the Judicial Council or the Executive & Planning Committee.
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That’s their charge – but these weren’t all insiders. With all of the financial pressures being foisted upon the courts, the previous committee members took their job very seriously and came up with a half way respectable funding formula for the money that flows to the branch. 50% would be based on workload and the other 50% would be based mostly on, well, politics with the haves wishing to preserve what they have over the have-nots.

But they did something bold. They looked at everything and started questioning the substantial amount of money that was being spent outside of the trial courts by the AOC. They explored the question as to whether that money spent outside of the trial courts could have been put to better use inside the trial courts. That line of questioning and exploration which was in fact a part of their charge because all of the money represents judicial branch funding and all of the money should be serving the courts for the benefit of all Californians.

And it isn’t.

But the line of questioning and exploration irritates judicial council staff leadership, some of whom are members of this committee because it demands they be transparent and accountable. They were inadvertently treading on the exclusive turf of the insiders and the insiders don’t like it.

To repel these inquiries, the following announcement was made here (link)

Suddenly, we were going to have Justice Richard Huffman and John Judnick (aka the Sundance kid and Billy the Kid) in charge of making decisions on trial court funding and neutering what appears to be one of the more effective committees. One that puts everything on the table and does what they should be doing. Questioning AOC spending.

The outcry caused by this completely fucked up decision encouraged an announcement that the insiders have changed their mind. Link here

With a more recent announcement of a new roster of members, many including us are concerned that the AOC is playing the long game by changing effective members who asked questions about AOC spending for muppet insiders that never will. Moreover, you can find most of these names on countless other committees. They’re the ones that get to pretend they have a day job.There’s also a new chair of the committee replacing a very effective chair but we haven’t seen him around much.

But we wonder if the new appointments have effectively neutered the committee from putting everything on the table and questioning expenditures outside of the trial courts.

Folks on this committee and most especially the new chair: We’re going to be keeping a keen eye on your work product. And so are others.