Sacramento Bee Editorial: Calls AOC’s Administration of CCMS “Shockingly Inept”

shocked

Hey!  I didn’t say it!  The editorial board of the Sacramento Bee did.  It’s one thing when you have court staff screaming how inept the AOC is when it comes to court administration and in particular its blind devotion to building and funding its computer software program CCMS.  But it’s quite another thing when the AOC gets called out on the carpet by a paper like the Sacramento Bee.

In an editorial printed on Saturday, October 31st, the Bee did its best Claude Rains impersonation when it explained to its readers how it was shocked, shocked, to discover just how much of a boondoggle CCMS has been.

It’s hardly surprising that the state courts are having trouble developing a massive new computer system. California continues to build an information superhighway that is strewn with potholes.

In recent years, a computer system designed to track child support payments ran up tens of millions of dollars in cost overruns. So did an effort by the Department of Motor Vehicles to update its computerized operations.

Yet even when measured against those and other blunders, the snafu of the California courts stands out. Its eye-popping price tag, closing in on $2 billion and climbing, comes in the midst of a massive state budget crisis. The court’s administration of this project has been shockingly inept.

To the editors of the Sacramento Bee who are now shocked and chagrined to find out just the tip of the iceberg of how “inept” the AOC can be, all I can say is, welcome to the party. Now take a number.

Yet the Sacramento Bee didn’t just stop there.  Oh, no.  The Bee went on to support an idea that has been promoted by many all over the state.   Call in for an independent audit now!!

Business as usual will not do. The courts can no longer tolerate wasteful spending, poorly managed technology initiatives and bloated bureaucracies.

To quell all the speculation, Justice George should invite independent outside scrutiny. The Bureau of State Audits should be brought in to do a top-to-bottom review of the state court bureaucracy and a representative sample of county court systems as well. The state’s chief technology officer should take over management of the court’s computer efforts.

Last week’s hearing should just be the beginning because I believe the legislative committee made up of members from both political parties realize that Californians have little to no patience for spending programs that they see as wasteful.  Especially when monies are poured into those programs with no controls, oversight, transparency, or input.

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45 responses to “Sacramento Bee Editorial: Calls AOC’s Administration of CCMS “Shockingly Inept”

  1. Hoo-ray, Sacramento Bee! It’s about time!

  2. Honestly, what the hell is happening? Chief, you must decide who you entrust to run the agency. People think that you have either invested faith in the wrong people, or you have fallen asleep at the wheel. Neither is looking good. As long as the AOC remains a silent and cryptic cypher to employees, the courts and the public, more and more revelations will harm the branch.

  3. Chief Justice George has said that he believes in transparency and accountability. He can prove it by agreeing to an independent audit of the AOC which would include CCMS.

    If he refuses to do this the Legislature should order such an audit over his objection.

    We need to keep in mind that Justice George has said that any attempt to make the Judicial Council democratic is a declaration of war. He has stacked the Judicial Council with folks who will not question what he does. Finally, he has recently made public comments casting doubt about the Peoples’s ability to pass laws by direct democracy. Therefore, Omerta doubts that he will agree to any audit of the AOC and CCMS. It is just not in nature to agree to such a thing.

    Omerta thinks it is time for the political leaders of all political parties and the public to give serious consideration as to whether or not Justice George should be allowed another 12 year term as Chief Justice. Omerta doubts that he is in favor of democracy, transparency and accountability.The mess that is the AOC is the result of his leadership. It is the opinion of Omerta that his age and inflexible leadership style appears to have made him unable to handle the demands of the Judicial Branch.

  4. Omerta, we should keep in mind that the Chief has a full time day job apart from the Judicial Council. Perhaps the problem is that the Chief has put too much trust in the AOC’s executive leadership. That leadership, in addition to running roughshod over AOC rank and file staff, has simply run “the ship of justice” aground in its quest to centralize power over the courts. The Chief would do well to put a stop to such craziness and, as you say, request that independent audit.

  5. Where is the moral compass? You cannot be silent and lead. The Chief has now been forced to choose between Bill or CCMS (or dump both) — maybe that is exactly what his foes wanted to have happen. Weathering the storm does not work in the internet age. Trying to scare people about movements underfoot in other states was a major blunder – worry about the people in your house and politics.

  6. Obi-Wan Kenobi

    That is the stated strategy of AOC management.

    “Ignore it and it will all blow over”

    Apparently our management doesn’t know new media too well.

    Whoever pulled that strategy out of their ass stuck their own head back up inside.

  7. You cannot fight for access to justice, accountablity or independence if there is none taking place at the state agency that the courts must trust. I almost have to laugh it is getting so bad.

    Chief: if you have not figured it out already, get your information from AOC Watcher. Information is not coming from within so you have to embrace the new world that has passed you and the team by.

    Ernie: tell Bill to fire him tomorrow. I’m serious.

    Sheila: she’s going to get a lot of people into some serious trouble. Tell Bill to fire her. If he won’t do it, you don’t understand why and neither does he.

    Others: I could go into details but it would compromise my identity. I mean, come on, wake up AOC leaders. If you are not providing the leadership of the branch or the council with real information, what good are any of you? And silent sycophants who are in management but do not speak honestly to directors are just as guilty. Encouraging underlings to speak truth to power is pathetic.

  8. Rumpelstiltskin

    “The state’s chief technology officer should take over management of the court’s computer efforts.”

    Why do we have any faith that s/he is any more competent than the AOC?

    Where was this person/agency when “a computer system designed to track child support payments ran up tens of millions of dollars in cost overruns”? Or when “an effort by the Department of Motor Vehicles to update its computerized operations”?

    I’m not convinced that bringing in another state agency is the answer.

  9. Below is a link to an example of what $1.5 billion should buy. The National Security Agency is planning to spend that much to build a 1.5 million square-foot facility which will provide intelligence and warnings related to cybersecurity threats throughout the United States. But for the same amount or more, the AOC can’t even develop working software to connect California’s courts!

    http://www.informationweek.com/news/government/security/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=221100260

  10. Like I said in my earlier comments, judges, court staff, AOC staff and all of their families and friends make for a lot of voters. Heck, my vet asks me to who to vote for in judicial elections! Take advantage of it. Lets vote the Chief out if he continues with this charade. But I hope the other commentors are correct: expect a lot of retirements at the top.

  11. Rumpelstiltskin

    Aoc Critic: How much the NSA is “planning” to spend and how much it “will” spend are two very different things. Check back in three years and let’s see where they are. God knows, I’m not trying to defend the AOC but designing a computer system is not simple. Putting up a huge building is a piece of cake by comparison. Note, that $1.5 billion is only the building and its cooling system. Do THEY have a computer system to “provide intelligence and warnings related to cybersecurity threats throughout the United States” Er, medoubts.

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      NSA has a computer system to provide intelligence and warnings related to cybersecurity threats not only throughout the United States but throughout the entire world among many other things.

      ECHELON is capable of interception and content inspection of telephone calls, fax, e-mail and other data traffic globally through the interception of communications including satellite transmission, public switched telephone networks (incuding almost 94% of all internet traffic) radio, cellular and microwave links.

  12. I don’t want to get sidetracked, but I assume that the NSA building includes more than a building shell and a cooling system. At $1.5 billion that works out to $1,000/sq. ft., which should buy more than an empty building and an advanced HVAC system.
    I agree with AOC critic to the extent that the costs and scope of the CCMS project has to be put into some kind of context. There does not seem to be any sense of proportion, i.e., does the ability to pay a traffic fine online justify a $1.5 billion case management system.

    As to the state’s other failed IT projects, it is my understanding that the DMV debacle occurred before the CIO was established or given oversight responsibility. I think the DMV mess was the impetus for creating the CIO position. If you are referring to the first DCSS system, I think that too was developed before the current statewide IT policies were in place.

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      The office of the state CIO was created because of these software debacles and to ensure other agencies didn’t get sucked in to the endless consulting route that the AOC is currently mired in of non-delivery of functionality.

      The AOC claims because it is a separate branch of government, it is not accountable to the office of the CIO. Their policies have neither the authority nor influence over the judicial branch.

      When and if the independent analysis is finally commenced, that analysis of CCMS will reveal that the Office of the CIO has attempted to advise the Judicial Branch well before this matter got out of hand and they were rebuffed.

  13. Pattyjane Smith

    Moneywatcher is right the CIO did not have jurisdiction over the DMV or child support debacles. For some reason, statewide IT systems have a tendency to go awry, thus necessitating a greater need for planning, prudence and oversight – all missing elements in the whole CCMS drama. Regardless, the question remains should the CCMS project take priority over trial court services?

  14. Douglas Denton

    My hope is that this message encourages more people to speak up freely here.

    On September 18, 2009, Judge William J. Murray, Jr., of Stockton was a brave man. He identified and settled what appears to have been a falsehood and potential dispute within the California judicial branch in four days. How do I know that it was settled? The moderator closed the comments section on September 18, 2009. Did you notice any public outcry over it? I do not seem to notice any statewide articles about the branch that could go national. With these kind and gentle words, a dispute was settled: “Like gas stations in rural Texas after 10 pm, comments are closed.”

    I can honestly and truthfully attest that I do not know who wrote those words, but he reminds me of my dear friend, Jack Urquhart. Jack is one of the most fantastic writers that I have ever encountered in my life, and I used to work for a great law firm with great lawyers (www.rjp.com).

    He also reminds me of my dear friend, Joe Remcho.

    Why am I telling you any of this? It’s because I would not post these names here if they were not people who have protected or been kind to me. Citations for landmark cases can last for a century. I only would risk my job by revealing my name here because I feel strongly enough that things are horribly wrong at the AOC and the branch needs to right itself quickly.

    I have never felt so unsafe, unguided or unprotected in a work environment in my entire life. My cousin was a well-known hero of truth who ended up committing suicide because of the pressures and ridiculousness that can occur in state government. I will not end up like her.

    • justinianscode

      Mr. Denton:

      I appreciate your efforts to encoureage people to speak up but I find some of your references a bit obscure, perhaps because I am just not all that up on the folks or events you mention. Can you fill in some of the details?

  15. Courtflea, I’ve been wondering if the Unions and others groups would get together to run a campaign to not retain the chief in the upcoming election.

  16. Douglas Denton

    It’s complicated.

  17. H. Sanders, great point. It was the unions that got the issue of CCMS vs. layoffs of court staff into the press (remember the picketing in front of the AOC?). In addition to court employee unions perhaps those that represent public defenders, DA’s, interpreters, etc. might want to join the cause. Interesting possibility. From your lips to SEIU’s ear.

  18. As mentioned above, it is complicated and potentially very dangerous to begin to politicize judicial retentions. All of us need to keep our eye on the prize. And that is keeping the trial courts open and increasing accountability and transparency. Additionally, it is the AOC leadership that is the liability for the Chief Justice. It is AOC leadership that cheapens the judiciary and taints its reputation with their misfeasance/nonfeasance. Perhaps it is the AOC leadership that should be dismissed???

  19. Douglas Denton

    No thank you Judge Gillyard. We now work for the Chief Justice of California.

    President Obama.

  20. I’d really like to post a meaningful comment and while I appreciate Mr. Denton’s honesty in not hiding behind some made up name, I’m afraid I’m lost on both comments.

  21. Obi-Wan Kenobi

    Wrong Fight,

    Chief Justice George got his position because people tossed Rose Bird off the bench. They believed she wasn’t representing the will of the people with her stance on the death penalty.

    Chief Justice George got his job because a judicial retention was politicized. As the head of the Judicial Branch, he alone has the power to effect change and clean up things over at the AOC.

    If he does nothing towards promoting the very transparency and accountability he advocates in his own back yard, I’m sorry, I can’t vote for retention.

    I’m unaccoustomed to endorsing hipocrisy.

  22. Douglas Denton

    So am I, Obi-Wan Kenobi. I won’t endorse it.

    You and others have been my only hope, but it took me a while to figure it out.

    If President Obama wants to shut down bad practices in the California court system, or demand accountability, he can and should do so.

    Everyone has been wanting real accountabilty and transparency for years. Now it may come faster.

    As long as people are getting mavericky and working towards significant reform within California state government, they will be on solid ground.

    But I will not support an uncivilized court or administrative culture. I trust the Chief to take care of things, including me.

    It is everyone’s duty to ensure that one of the greatest court systems in the nation remains sound.

  23. Douglas Denton

    PS.

    I do want to thank you Judge Gillyard for your concern. It was genuinely needed because of pressure that I have been under, but I am feeling much better now.

    But I also want you to know me on my terms. I may be your worst nightmare.

    I am a gay Democrat who supports the Chief Justice. I also thinks that he may need to recuse himself from the Judical Council as soon as possible.

    I don’t know if Robin Johansen is working on a recusal for the Chief, but she should be. She knows that I have Joe Remcho in every fiber of my body — I would not say this if I did not realize it will have an impact.

    Everything we do has an impact.

    The Chief’s opponents have made it abundantly clear that they are willing to attack him almost exactly one year before a retention election. Judges may even be doing it anonymously.

    That is shameful for members of the bench, who hold such an important role in modern society.

    The Chief does not oversee how funds are being spent on a computer system. He trusted people who administer the AOC to do that. He also trusted them to be accountable and follow the law.

    The Chief sits and hears cases. That is his primary job.

    Lynn Holton told me yesterday that he probably has never had time to read something as silly as this anonymous blog. He has been in oral argument the past two days.

    Wake up people.

    The Chief is a leader for the 50 statewide court systems on key issues of national concern. For one of those concerns, procedural fairness, I know that Judge Tim McCoy suggested in 2006 that the Administratrive Director focus on it.

    That is why I know that Judge McCoy is a leader.

    Do not tarnish the reputation of the California judicial branch with anonymous blogs like this.

    Like any good lawyer, state your name, intentions and your client when you approach bench.

    I can speak freely here because I currently have an unclear role at the AOC. They know this.

    If you want to have any credibility with forums such as this, do a serious blog that cannot be perceived as having a hidden agenda.

    My agenda to me now is very clear. It’s to speak freely to every member of the judicial branch in the modern age.

    Respect.

  24. I feel awful for Mr. Denton, who’s out there in left field somewhere. Things are bad at the AOC but are they so bad employees start going this rogue? I’d be willing to bet his comments will embarrass the Chief.

    Mr. Denton, this is a legitimate blog. You don’t have to drop names to speak your truth. And criticizing other people for speaking theirs isn’t respectful. Neither is grandstanding.

  25. Douglas Denton

    I am not grandstanding. I am doing what my Manager told me to do. He said, “Just make sure it doesn’t get traced back to you.”

    I am stepping out of this. I am done and those of you who know me understand. Not done living. Done with the shenanigans of the AOC.

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      You’re an EOP employee according to my list.

      It was kind of you to come by and out your boss but we’re all a little confused by his alleged instruction of “Just make sure it doesn’t get traced back to you” followed by your apparent posting under your real name?

      I find these lines disturbing and one appears to be addressed to a judge and another a justice.

      “But I also want you to know me on my terms. I may be your worst nightmare.”

      Let me understand this, you are telling a judge, who I gather responded to your first post via email that “you may be his worst nightmare?”

      And then this:

      “I am a gay Democrat who supports the Chief Justice. I also thinks that he may need to recuse himself from the Judical Council as soon as possible.”

      One question Mr. Denton:

      Were you led out the door by HR … or the CHP?

  26. Here is the response just received to a judge’s request to the AOC for detailed expenditure reports regarding CCMS:

    “Thank you for your patience regarding response to your request for additional information.

    “Since receiving your follow up request for detailed expenditure reports for certain categories of CCMS costs, we’ve gone to considerable lengths to determine if we have the means to reasonably respond to this request (e.g., can reports be run from the accounting system that tie to these categories) since these are not reports that can easily be generated. After a review of available options, we’ve determined that as a result of how the various projects feed into the accounting side and how expenditures are captured, there simply aren’t “detailed expenditure reports” that can be created that tie to each of the categories.

    “Staff are currently in the process of developing the annual report to the Legislature on CCMS development and costs; we’d be happy to share this with you once it has been submitted to the Legislature.

    Kind regards,

    Bob Fleshman”

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      How about asking Bob for the total of invoices from deliotte consulting? This can be pulled up in seconds and that is where all the costs lie.

  27. Re: Bob Fleshman’s Request for Information

    I don’t know how detailed the judge’s request might have been. Depending on the nature of the request and the accounting methods used by the AOC, there may be some merit to Mr. Fleshman’s response.

    However, under the proposed Public Access to Administrative Judicial Records Act, the AOC would have an obligation to use reasonable efforts to assist the requesting party to “identify records and information responsive to the request or to the purpose of the request”. (Rule 10.500(e)(9).) While I am not sure the Rule has been adopted, it is my understanding the AOC and the Courts are expected to respond following the “spirit” of the rule.

    I hope the judge who requested the information follows up with Mr. Fleshman and asks for some assistance in identifying the records, which are available and which might be responsive to this request.

    http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/invitationstocomment/documents/sp09-07.pdf

  28. I don’t feel that this is a blog with a negative agenda, it is just reporting the truth most of us already know. I don’t like the idea of bringing politics to judicial elections but this not about the cheif’s politics or his rulings, it is about what is he going to do make changes at the AOC for the benefit of the branch. While he may trust his staff, bottom line is that he is ultimately responsible for what goes on within the AOC. If he won’t take responsibility for that part of his job, then something has to happen. The branch is going down the shithole for the sake of his and AOC’s management’s quest for power. And of course he does not read this blog and more obviously his staff is not reporting to him what people saying out there, other wise if the is the man we all like to think he is, he would be doing something about it. Frankly he should have been doing that some time ago.
    As far as the judge’s records request: if the AOC ever gets audited by the consultants they pay to audit the courts, they are in deep doo doo. It will make the audit of Placer Court look like it received kudos! Sheesh!

  29. Obi-Wan Kenobi,

    While Deloitte’s invoices can be “pulled up in seconds” they probably won’t itemize the expenses and they won’t disclose the underlying problems within the AOC or how it has handled contract negotiations with deloitte, or, even, how monies are spent on any contract. The problem lies with the AOC’s faulty tracking and the lack of a PMO that adheres to state standards.

  30. Tread carefully Obi. The world is watching you.

  31. I agree. If you intimidate people in protected classes then you are breaking the law.

  32. Obi-Wan Kenobi

    I must be missing something…..

  33. I don’t think Obi-Wan means to intimidate anyone. More likely Obi was just confused like others of us by the postings of a fellow employee who’s feeling the pressures of an unhappy work environment. It’s enough to make the best of us sound incoherent at times.

  34. Judicial Observer

    Here is yet another editorial questioning the ability of the Judicial Council and the AOC to manage CCMS.

    http://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/story/1708021.html?storylink=mirelated

  35. Judicial Observer

    CCMS now included in a list of historic state “computer flops” in today’s (11/22/2009) Los Angeles Times:

    “After spending billions, state remains hampered by outmoded, unreliable computer systems.”

    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-state-computers22-2009nov22,0,4065730.story

  36. “In 2001, the state awarded a $95-million computer contract for software to link information and services across government agencies to Oracle Corp., without competitive bidding.”

    Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

  37. Judge Maino from San Diego has a letter in Friday’s Modesto Bee giving a reasonable response to an Op. Ed previously published in that newspaper by two Judicial Council members defending the ongoing expenditures for CCMS.

    http://www.modbee.com/opinion/letters/story/950669.html

    Posted on Fri, Nov. 27, 2009
    Court computer system far too expensive

    last updated: November 27, 2009 08:14:43 PM

    In response to the letter by Justice Brad Hill and attorney Anthony Capozzi, “Upgrading state court computers a matter of necessity, not money” (Nov. 17): The issue is quite simple. Both of these honorable men are members of the Judicial Council. They voted to close the courts one day a month. Why? Because there is not enough money to keep the courts open and to fund the computer system called CCMS.

    The present information available is that CCMS will cost at least $1.7 billion. This is more than $1 million per California judge. I believe there are 20 judges in Stanislaus County. Are the benefits as described by these two men worth $20 million in taxpayer money? These two men prefer computer systems to open courts. I disagree with them.

    RUNSTON GOULD MAINO
    judge, San Diego Superior Court
    San Diego

  38. Judicial observer

    Judge Maino of San Diego has a letter published in Friday’s Modesto Bee pointing out the bias and misplaced values inherent in the previous Op Ed by members of the Judicial Council defending CCMS.

    http://www.modbee.com/opinion/letters/v-print/story/950669.html