Right before the Committee on Accountability and Administrative Review held its hearing on the AOC last month, Judge Dan Goldstein of San Diego had his opinion piece published in several California newspapers. His op-ed piece voiced many of the problems with the AOC and questioned its commitment to the public we serve. Needless to say, his op-ed garnered much support. But I shouldn’t neglect the fact that it also had a lot of detractors.
One detractor in particular is Justice Richard Huffman of the Fourth District of Appeal. Justice Huffman wrote a letter to the editor of the San Diego Union Tribune which happened to be one of the papers that published Judge Goldstein’s opinion piece. In his letter Justice Huffman sang a tune we’ve all come to expect (and hate) from AOC high command which was basically that Judge Goldstein had all the facts wrong, that we can’t go after the funds for court construction because it’s illegal, that the AOC’s budget process is transparent. (Oh, it is? Prove it. Email me a detailed budget for the AOC from this past year.)
But Justice Huffman’s letter wasn’t going to go unanswered. He got a response from Judge Charles Horan of LA Superior Court who wrote a response and called Justice Huffman out for all of the things he DIDN’T mention in his letter to the editor. And Judge Horan did not mince words. Here’s a portion of his letter:
As your readers may know, Justice Huffman and the other members of the Judicial Council recently voted to adopt the plan to shut down all courts in California one day per month. What they may not know is that Justice Huffman and the other members of the council (excluding one member from Los Angeles) recently voted to continue to dump hundreds of millions of dollars into a troubled statewide computer system that published reports indicate will cost at least $2 billion, despite our inability to keep the courts open to the public. This amount equates to over $1 million per state judge.
They also may not know that many on the council favor floating $6 billion in construction bonds at a time when California is steeped in debt. It is against this backdrop that Goldstein reasonably proposed giving local courts control over using scarce funds to keep courts open rather than to build new courthouses.
Aside from the usual words of defense of the AOC, the one thing I found PARTICULARLY galling in Justice Huffman’s letter was that he corrected Judge Goldstein by saying it was not the AOC who decided on court closures. It was the Judicial Council. And not only did he admit that it was the Judicial Council that pulled the trigger, a council of which he is a member, he then claimed that the “difficult decision” to close was made with consultation of “state and local representatives, attorneys, public safety officials and union representatives.”
Okay, just because you discussed closing the courts with those groups does not mean that you had the support of those groups. In fact many people within those groups questioned the need for court closures and challenged both the AOC and the JC’s assertion that court closures was the only way that courts could cope with the budget deficit. Nowhere in his letter does Justice Huffman address the fact that they’re spending billions of tax dollars on a court software program that’s already become a negative symbol of government spending. Nowhere in his letter does Justice Huffman address the fact that he and other members of the Judicial Council voted to take millions out of the Trial Court Spending fund and channel it into their little pet software program.
The Judicial Council members should be put on notice from here on out. You have every right to step forward and defend the JC and the AOC and the actions of both. But be prepared to face some heat. The days of people keeping silent are over. As they should be.