Judicial Wars: Formation of the Alliance of California Judges

It’s been rumored and talked about for months but now it’s official.  California judges who have been none too pleased with the AOC and the Judicial Council have formed their own association called the Alliance of California Judges or ACJ.  Both the Daily Journal and the Recorder broke the news this morning.  According to the Recorder about two dozen judges met over the last weekend in San Diego to discuss the formation of the group.  Although no concrete numbers are known of how many judges are in the group, there’s an email list with about 90 judges, the ACJ feels confident that more judges will join the group as word spreads of the group’s official formation.

One of the reasons why the judges felt it necessary to form their own association is the AOC’s decision to close courts as an answer to budget cuts.  Both Judge Maryanne Gilliard of Sacramento and Judge Daniel B. Goldstein of San Diego were quoted in the Daily Journal and the Recorder stating how the closures became a catalyst for the new judges’ association formation.

“What really has galvanized this group of judges is courthouse closures and the belief that there needs to be greater transparency in the decision-making process.”

–Judge Maryanne Gilliard/The Recorder

“We are a concerned group of judges who want to focus on judicial independence, access to courts and transparency.  And we will be looking at avenues to attain these goals.”

“There should have been a more thorough dialogue with the trial judges of the state to examine areas where we could have engaged in cost-cutting measures.”

“Should we be building courthouses and putting in expensive computer systems into these courthouses, when we can’t keep the ones open that we have?”

— Judge Daniel B. Goldstein/Daily Journal

“The Allicance of California Judges believes that closing the courthouses to the public should be the absolute last resort, not the first option.”

–Judge Maryanne Gilliard/The Recorder

The ACJ also hopes to change the way that judges are selected for the Judicial Council.  Currently judges for the JC are appointed by the State Bar and Chief Justice George.  The ACJ would like judges on the Judicial Council to be elected.  Again, quotes from Judge Gilliard on the issue.

“There needs to be  buy-in from all the trial courts in the state so there’s a belief that the decisions and all items and issues have been fully vetted and considered.  If there’s not a system of checks and balances I think there’s a real question about the validity of the decisions that are made.”

–Judge Maryanne Gilliard/The Recorder

I’m going to close this post with another quote by Judge Gilliard and I cannot emphasize enough how much I wholeheartedly agree with her statement directed to her fellow judges.  I only hope that judges up and down California hear her and answer the call of the CJA.

“The times in which we live demand that judges stand up and be counted and be the voice of conscience of the judiciary.  It would be wrong for us to sit back and do nothing.”

–Judge Maryanne Gilliard/Daily Journal

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4 responses to “Judicial Wars: Formation of the Alliance of California Judges

  1. The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutrality…Dante

  2. With apologies to Alfred, Lord Tennyson

    Cannon to right of them,
    Cannon to left of them,
    Cannon in front of them
    Volley’d and thunder’d;
    Storm’d at with shot and shell,
    Boldly they rode and well,
    Into the jaws of Death,
    Into the mouth of Hell
    Rode the Rebel Alliance

    This is indeed a proud moment for the judiciary. Very nice job!

  3. I applaud these judges for their willingness to step up and express their concerns regarding the manner in which the JC makes decisions affecting the administration of justice in California.

    As elected officials, these judges are in a much better position than unions, the sheriffs association or court employees, when it comes to having their voices heard in either San Francisco or Sacramento.

    I think this group should put changing the governance structure of the Judicial Branch at the top of its list of priorities. Before trial court funding in 1997, the primary function of the JC was to propose and adopt rules of court for practice in the trial courts. A council of experienced judicial officers appointed by the Chief Justice to make decisions which rarely, if ever, involved the expenditure or allocation of public funds, probably made sense. The JC members had the experience and background to determine how many pages a memo of P&A’s should be, or how much notice was required before seeking an ex parte order.

    However, as the AOC frequently reminds us, the function of the JC dramatically changed with trial court funding. Now the JC must make public policy decisions regarding budget allocations, oversee the construction and maintenance of 500+ buildings, and determine what is the most cost-effective use of limited resources. When it was initially established, the JC was not expected to make decisions about such issues of whether courts should be closed once a month so the AOC can continue to fund a $1.2 billion+ technology project.

    There is no doubt the members of the JC are intelligent and compentent. Furthermore, I am sure the Chief Justice when making his appointments strives for diversity. However, it is pretty clear under the existing system, dissenting voices are not welcome. I am not aware of the JC making any major decisions, i.e., statewide technology inititatives, court closures, facilities, etc. on anything less than an unanimous vote. The fact the JC has approved the expenditure of billions of dollars without one dissenting vote speaks volumes to the credibility of the current structure.

    I hope the judges alliance reaches out to court administrative staff and CEO’s who have been trying to raise some of these same issues for years. I think they will find a group that, like them, have the best intersts of the branch at heart and who possess a great deal of knowledge regarding these issues.

  4. Diversity on the JC? It doesn’t exist except int he CJ’s mind. Many of us know how JC members are selected and told that they must speak with one voice – the Chief’s voice as governed by the AOC. JC members have abandoned their oath in favor of doing the bidding of the AOC. Time for change is here.