Daily Archives: August 14, 2009

Administrative Office of the Court’s Judicial Summer Camp 2009!!

While court employees suffer through court layoffs and furloughs, it’s nice to know that the AOC will be spending tax payer dollars wisely.  How wisely?  Well, how about we take a tour of the Dolce Hayes Mansion Resort and Spa, also known as the place where new judicial officers will be getting their training this year.  Or as I like to call it, Judicial Summer Camp 2009!

This is the Dolce Hayes Mansion resort and spa.  The first thing new judges will learn is that this resort is swankier than any courtroom they’re going to find themselves presiding over.  So they better enjoy it!

And what can the judges expect in terms of accommodation?  Well, according to the hotel’s website judges will have nothing to worry about.

“In your hotel guest room or suite, you will be surrounded by classic touches and the most contemporary amenities.  Lush bedding and natural lighting achieve the perfect balance of style and comfort.  Everything you need is within reach to provide a sanctuary for work or relaxation.”

Oh, and I don’t think that woman is a judicial officer.  Yeah.  I’m pretty sure of that.

dolce1

Okay, ladies and gentlemen.  Today we’re going to discuss how best to use court resources in a time of budgetary crisis.  But first, should I have them serve tea and cake?

Awww….did you have a stressful day in judicial class today?  I know.  It was the class on mandatory sentences for drug offenses, wasn’t it?  Well, don’t you worry.  A nice massage in the spa will set you right.

And if the judges are still stressed out after their spa treatments, well they can always take a relaxing dip in the hotel pool.  After all, the Dolce Hayes Mansion will be able to help judges relax as well as work.

If you are here to work, we will make your work space as pleasant and productive as possible and then help you seriously unwind at the end of the day.  On the other hand, if you are with us to simply rest, relax or get into a good book, our friendly, comfortable setting will make it easier than you ever dreamed possible.  In any case, our professional staff is ready to respond to your every need.

AOC training for new judges to cost $337,000

In the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression, in the middle of plummeting home values, lost jobs, and court closures and court furloughs, the AOC came up with the bright idea of hosting this year’s Bernard E. Witkin Judicial College at the Dolce Hayes Mansion in San Jose. And in case the word “mansion” hasn’t caught your eye, how about this? The two week training for new judicial officers will wind up costing $337,000. At least that seems to be the case according to an article by Amy Yarbrough printed in the legal paper The Daily Journal.

Roughly 130 judges and subordinate judicial officers have been attending new judges’ college for the past week at the Dolce Hayes Mansion, a resort and spa that boasts “emerald green lawns, stunning décor and unparalleled guest service” on its Web site.

The AOC is paying $100-a-night per room and has booked next years lodging at $110, Vickrey said. “I realize the word mansion raises a certain image in one’s mind,” Vickrey said. “But $100 a night isn’t exorbitant.”

Oh, golly gee.  The public might see that judges are staying at a hotel with the word mansion in it’s name and flip out?  Oh, really Mr. Vickrey?  How perceptive of you.  In case you don’t know, Mr. William Vickrey is administrative director of the courts.

But another AOC staffer said the rate this year is $110, plus tax. In addition, she said the agency is putting up 44 “faculty and seminar leaders” at the hotel.

Oh, dear.  Mr. Vickrey, it would appear even YOU don’t know how much exactly you’re shelling out a night in hotel room cost.  But then again, as far as most court employees are concerned, you can’t count on the AOC to tell you how many dollars it’s spending.  Only that it has spent it.

Now, look.  Nobody is denying the fact that new judicial officers need training.  (Some would even argue current bench officers need retraining, but that’s a story for another day)  But did the AOC really think that it was wise to host this year’s Bernard E. Witkin Judicial College at the Dolce Hayes Mansion in San Jose? The public is already screaming bloody murder at any government spending it perceives to be wasteful.   And this will only add to the general public’s negative perception of government employees.

AOC described as “mothership” of “bloated bureaucracy

I cannot even begin to tell you how curious I find it that the mainstream media in California has not taken the opportunity to look into the Administrative Office of the Courts or the AOC is it more commonly known.  Especially when people who work with the courts have been complaining for years about the way the AOC spends the monies it collects from all of California’s county courts.  But the AOC might need to stock up on sunscreen (of course the most expensive kind it can find) to deal with the harsh limelight that it now finds itself in.

Last month the columnist Jeff Ackerman of the TheUnion.com wrote a column blasting the AOC for its decision to hold a conference in San Francisco that wound up costing taxpayers roughly over $100,000.  A conference focused on “The California Judicial Branch Budget Crisis.”  Yes, folks.  The AOC had to spend thousands of dollars to explore the judicial branch’s budget crisis while contributing to that very crisis with an expensive conference.  Mr. Ackerman explains in his column that:

around 70 people from the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) got together at the Hilton in San Francisco to discuss … get this … “The California Judicial Branch Budget Crisis.” They even spent $40,000 on five facilitators, just to make sure they came away with good notes on where all the taxpayer money went. And … again … I couldn’t make this up if I tried. “Gentlemen … please pass the wine … we are gathered here to discuss urgent business … please pass the cheese … the state is broke and unless we find some money, we may be meeting next year in Marysville at a Motel 6 …,” which resulted in a collective gasp and group wine-spit across the table.

A $10,000 facilitator had to be summoned to coordinate a group-hug.

The Hilton meeting rooms cost $42,000, according to a memo I intercepted in cyberspace. An estimated 25 of the 70 attendees spent two nights each at the Hilton (at a discounted price of $138 per night) and one member (a fellow named Judge Brad R. Hill) spent the night in the “Presidential Suite” because, according to the memo, it was his turn. The memo didn’t say how much the suite cost, but presidents don’t stay in rooms where remote controls are chained to the television sets. Don’t ask how I know this to be true.

Well, it’s not quite the same as Nero fiddling while Rome burned, though I’d have to say it’s pretty darn close to it.  And if you think this kind of questionable spending by the AOC is an anomaly in a time when courts are closing and court employees are taking furloughs, think again my friend.  Think again.