As I sat listening to the proceedings during the Judicial Council’s meeting last Friday, I eagerly awaited to hear from the Honorable Katherine Feinstein. Why is that? Well, she is currently the presiding judge of the San Francisco Superior Court, (SFSC) and unless you’ve been on Mars, in a cave, under a rock, asleep, you know that the SFSC is facing a disaster that is almost unprecedented in California judicial history.
Thanks to the California legislature’s slashing of the judiciary’s budget, and the tone-deaf response by the AOC and Judicial Council to the reduction in trial court funding, SFSC issued layoff notices to 200 employees resulting in a 40% reduction of court staff and the closure of 25 courtrooms in the civil court division.
Judge Feinstein has been on a whirlwind press tour appearing on local and national television and as well as print media trying to draw attention to the state of affairs in the City by the Bay.
The AOC tried to deflect any negative attention to its spending habits by releasing an audit claiming that SFSC has been mismanaging its budget. (Am I the only one that sees the irony in the AOC accusing a trial court of mismanaging its budget? Anyone? Anyone?)
So when Judge Feinstein took the microphone to speak before the JC, I took a deep breath and wondered whether she’d tell them what was really on her mind. She did that and a whole lot more. In her speech Judge Feinstein was brutally honest calling out the AOC for giving the appearance that it lacked interest in San Francisco’s crisis, and their continued funding of questionable projects such as CCMS.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes from her statement:
“…I remain stunned that neither I, nor our Court Executive Officer, received a single phone call from anyone in the Administrative Office of the Courts – the entity that is supposed to provide services and support to the trial courts.”
“…the fact that the AOC ever proposed spending $26 million on a single courtroom in a county with two Judges, five staff and a total county population of 1,175 people, and likewise spending $52 million on three courtrooms in a county with two Judges and 17 staff members is, to my mind, absurd.”
“CCMS may have been a great idea when ideas were grand and money was plentiful. Today, it is clearly overdesigned, over budget, and overdue.”
“…don’t force the rest of us to abandon basic access to justice in favor of feeding this technology beast with trial court trust funds.”
You can read the entirety of Judge Feinstein’s statement below.