San Mateo Superior Court To Lay Off 28 Employees

As San Mateo Superior Court CEO John Fitton announces the lay off of 28 employees, AOC Watcher has questions about the court’s reserves and the silence of its judges.

In a stunning statement that will surely be a contender for the AOC Watcher’s Understatement of the Year Award, Court Executive Officer John Fitton of the San Mateo Superior Court was quoted in an article today that the superior court’s finance department’s failure to notice that the court was $3.89 million in debt last year was, in a word, “disturbing.”

Fitton said an investigation by the Administrative Office of the Courts has already confirmed that the $3.89 million deficit for the 2008-09 fiscal year is accurate and is continuing to investigate why no one discovered it until mid-August, a lapse Fitton called “disturbing.”

He said the Administrative Office of the Courts will complete its report this week and “any individual who was found negligent will be held appropriately accountable.”

D-i-s-t-u-r-b-i-n-g.  Let me see if I can wrap my mind around this Mr. Fitton.  Your court’s frack up is leading to the lay off of 28 court employees and the best adjective you can come up with is “disturbing?”  How about “tragic?”  How about “disastrous?”  How about “inexcusable?”  How about “embarrassing?”  If you’re reading this Mr. Fitton, you might want to check out this site.  You know.  To brush up on your vocabulary.


And if your court has $13.5 million in reserves, of which you’re using part of that to  cover last year’s 2 + 2 = 5 fiasco, why aren’t you using the rest of what you have in reserves to cover this year’s deficit to prevent lay offs?  Why aren’t you doing what other counties are planning to do which is to dip into their reserves beyond what the AOC recommends to prevent the lay offs of court staff?  I happen to know for a fact that one particular court is planning on dipping deep into their reserves leaving them with less than $1 million in reserves.  And why is this county court doing this?  Because they’ve made a pledge to their court staff to prevent lay offs.  In fact, this particular court administration has received nothing short than marching orders from its judicial bench officers to do everything possible to avoid lay offs.  That’s why they’re dipping below the AOC required minimum balance in its reserves.

Now, if the judges of this particular Bay Area court are willing to sign off on a plan that will wind up almost depleting its reserves to protect the jobs and livelihoods of its employees, why isn’t the San Mateo Superior Court willing to do the same?  Why aren’t we hearing from the judges in this court?  Why aren’t we hearing the same pledge of no lay offs at any cost from them?  Surely the judges of the San Mateo Superior Court would be happy to contribute more from the reserves to make up for the deficit.  Are they even aware of the plans that other counties have regarding their reserves?  Hellooooooooooooo?  Are you judges in San Mateo awake out there or what?  At the end of the day, the judicial officers have to take some sort of a stand with their employees.  And I’m sorry, but the volunteer salary giveback program just isn’t going to cut it.

And here’s another thought for you San Mateo judges to ponder.  Your finance department, your CEO, your court administration are not elected by the voters in your county.  You, however, are.  People may be able to take out their frustrations with you in ways they can’t with court admin.  I wouldn’t be too surprised if people who are utterly disgusted with this whole situation start campaigns against judges who sat by and did nothing.  Hey.  I’ve heard that scenario mentioned more than once by court employees.  Preposterous?  Maybe.  But a lot can happen when a large group of people are disgruntled with elected officers.

As for the AOC, what is the AOC, you know, the agency that was supposed to be overseeing the finances of San Mateo Superior Court and double checking to make sure its books were balanced, doing about all of this?  Well, their investigation will reportedly be completed by this week and according to Fitton “any individual who was found negligent will be held appropriately accountable.”  Exactly what does “appropriately accountable” mean?  Will the persons involved get laid off?  Are they going to get fired?  Sorry if that last sentence seems harsh, but guess what?  So is the lay off of 28 court employees who had nothing to do with the financial frack up.

I can’t wait to hear what the AOC has to say in their report.  It’ll probably be something illuminating like, “Yes, there was a frack up.  We’re sorry it happened.  Those involved have been held appropriately accountable.  It won’t happen again.”  Now there’s something that I find truly DISTURBING.

14 responses to “San Mateo Superior Court To Lay Off 28 Employees



  2. San Mateo’s layoff’s including the pending ones noted by Annette are horrible.

    Is there a list of all California Courts who have had to layoff employees? Am I correct in my belief that the AOC has not had any loyoffs?

  3. Unfortunately, 28 tax payers are uncessarily going to lose their jobs in San Mateo Superior. And according to Annette Ruiz-Vides, an additional round of lay-offs is coming in January. Why? Because of the San Mateo Superior Court’s incompentence and the failure of the AOC to do it’s job in overseeing the Court’s fiscal situation. San Mateo Superior and the AOC are equally culpable in this ‘frack’ up. We all know that every court is required to submit quarterly financial reports to the AOC. In their own accounting, did the Court not see their own impending budget shortfall? In the documents submitted to the AOC, did AOC staff fail to notice that San Mateo was going to come up short? Does the AOC even carefully look at these quarterly reports? Does the AOC not have to certify these reports? Today, 28 people will lose their job because of this ‘frack’ up. Twenty-eight people – during a time of minimal, if any, prospects of comparable work and pay. During a time when this state needs more taxpayers not fewer. Someone should be held accountable for this gross error that, in the end, will only hurt the consumers of court services in San Mateo and the employees who DID NOT CREATE or DID NOT CONTRIBUTE to this mess. This, all the while the AOC continues to hire more staff. Yes, the word on the street is that the AOC has hired even more staff in August despite their hiring freeze. What an insult to those folks in San Mateo…..

  4. Dear Disturbed – Not only has the AOC not laid off staff they continue to hire them. Alameda Superior has already laid off somewhere between 70-80 employees.

  5. @ WiseEmployee

    “the failure of the AOC to do it’s job in overseeing the Court’s fiscal situation.”

    It’s “its” not “it’s” — kapeesh?

  6. Please, dear people, let us remain focused. San Mateo has a bad situation. Let’s let them try and figure it out and not find fault or elect “bad guys” until more is known. It is bad enough that so many employees will be let go. Let us not create new victims of a State Trial Court Funding system imposed from above. It only feeds the AOC beast. And this is THEIR beast.

    And in an effort to refocus the appropriate effort, may I quote from the Chief Justice’s 2001 State of the Judiciary? He said the following to the Legislature to justify the then new wonder of State Trial court funding under the AOC’s mastery. In describing the previous system, he stated:

    “Local courts were on the verge of closing, with staff cutbacks and unfunded payrolls, facilities in a state of dangerous disrepair, services to the public drastically curtailed, and, ultimately, the entire administration of justice at risk.”

    Thank goodness AOC was there in 2001 to save us all. However, does any of this sound familiar to us in 2009?

    Please, let’s remember who brought us to this point. (Hint: Its wasn’t the folks in San Mateo)

  7. Pendant – don’t be so petty. You must not have liked my comments. PS – many of the bloggers have typos in their comments – did you call them out for their minor grammatical errors and typos? If you didn’t like what I said you should have just said so……

  8. A couple thoughts here. Throw me into the it’s/its category. No matter how many times I read over my posts I always come up short in the grammar dept. But let’s not get bogged down in minutia while ignoring the bigger picture.

    I don’t want anyone who reads this post to think for one minute that I’m leaving the AOC off the hook in regards to this matter. I still hold them responsible because as pacwest50 points out in his posted comment, it was the AOC who were touting the benefits of letting them have control of trial court funding.

    I wanted to bring attention to the judges in San Mateo because I am a believer in the old school of thought that says judges should have some control and responsibility of what goes on in their courts.

    And perhaps that is naivete on my part, but I still believe that the judges in San Mateo should have a seat at the table and their opinions heard. Even if it means going against what the AOC wishes.

  9. I think there are many who prescribe to that school of thought….. And I think the various statutes support that notion.

  10. Reader of the Complaint

    DRAFT stands for “Dependency Representation, Administration, Funding, and Training” — see the section in this blog on the AOC sued in Federal Court.

  11. Reader of the Complaint

    Sorry – the above note is not related to this strand (see below)

  12. I understand that today’s LA Daily Journal has a wonderful article that caught the AOC in a flat lie. The AOC is STILL hiring despite their claim of hard hiring freeze. They actually attempt to justify the lie as well.

    So, employees get laid off. Employees have their pay cut. Employees are furloughed. Judges take pay cuts. Courts are closed. The public is denied service. And the AOC monster continues to grow and grow. And they lie about it. This gives new meaning to the term “arrogance”!

    Public confidence: ZERO!

  13. Only one “flat out lie”? There is more than one flat out lie out there from the AOC waiting to be exposed. The Daily Journal should did a little deeper, especially in the AOC’s HR Division.

  14. @Wise(?)Employee: I don’t have the time to comment on every grammatical or spelling error I see on this (or other) sites. That’s just a rather a glaring one of the sort that makes me question the intelligence of the person posting the comment. Oh, and it was “Pedant” (not “Pendant”) since I was trying to acknowledge that I was being a bit nit-picky (not that I desire to be a piece of jewelry). Cheers.