Rumor Has It: Daily Journal Article Confirms AOC “Doled Out” Pay Increases

I posted a “Rumor Has It” post about pay raises for AOC employees in 2009-2010.  Turns out the rumor had a ring of truth to it.  At least that’s the way it seems if you read the article posted in today’s Daily Journal where reporter Amy Yarbrough writes that raises and other perks were given to some AOC employees this past year in the midst of court closures, furloughs, slashed budgets, and a supposed hiring freeze at the AOC.

So, how big were the pay increases?  Well, this paragraph from the article sums it all up.

The records show that while the agency imposed once-monthly furlough days on employees with one hand, it has increased salaries so much with the other that, coupled with new hires, its payroll costs grew 6 percent from July 2008 to July 2009, for a total of nearly $4.2 million per year.

The Big Payroll Winners

Although I don’t believe this to be the case with the rank and file AOC employees, the article makes it seem as though the AOC couldn’t stop handing out raises to all employees. But it appears that some definitely benefited more than others. A few managers and directors will see this year go out with their salaries well padded. Here are some of the AOC employees who have something to smile about this Christmas.

  • Those who were promoted received even bigger salary increases. William Griffiths, a manager, received a 31 percent raise upon his promotion from a senior budget analyst, for instance.
  • Two managers in the agency’s Office of Court Construction and Management, who were not promoted, received 14 percent raises between July 2008 and July 2009, on top of 3.5 merit salary adjustments they’d received earlier in 2008. Another manager in that office received a 9 percent raise.
  • AOC’s three regional administrative directors who report to Vickrey, Sheila Calabro, Christine Patton, and Jody Patel also saw big pay bumps, each receiving 10 percent increases in that 2008-2009 time period, bringing their base salaries to $198,708 a year.

There were a couple comments made in the article about why the increases were merited that I wanted to draw people’s attention to. (Given you can draw your attention away from the numbers thrown about.)

Philip Carrizosa, a spokesman for the AOC, said in an e-mail that some of the outsized raises were necessary to keep top-level employees. He said others received big raises because of “increased job responsibilities,” even though their job titles did not change.

“We did what we thought we needed to do to hold onto people we felt were valuable employees,” (William) Vickery said.

I find these comments rather intriguing because considering how tight the job market is and that unemployment rates in the country and in the state run over 10% and 12% respectively, I would figure these employees would have been just fine being paid their current salaries minus any increases and the chances of them moving on to find other work that paid well are pretty slim. And the use of “increased job responsibilities” as a reason for increases is a bit of a joke considering that there are THOUSANDS of court employees throughout the state who have increased job responsibilities since implementation of court closures and I don’t see any salary increases or merit rewards in the future for them.

And while I agree with Judge Dan Goldstein who called the salary increases “offensive,” I want people to focus on Judge Goldstein’s position that this is yet another example of why there should be greater oversight and transparency with the AOC.  Added to the AOC’s position on CCMS and the court construction fund, the salary increases in the midst of a budget crisis shows that the current AOC regime has completely lost focus of how to best serve the courts and the people who utilize its services.

UPDATE: A commenter by the name of Access2Justice reminded me of one particular part of the article that was too good to let go unnoticed.

Oh, AOCW, you left out my favorite part of the article:

Although many received raises, employees were not given an additional cost-of-living increase last fiscal year as they have in other years. Because of that and because the merit raises were smaller than in years past, Vickery’s memo said, employees were also given three extra paid days off between Thanksgiving and Jan. 2, 2009.

The thought of this will really be warming my heart on December 16th.

58 responses to “Rumor Has It: Daily Journal Article Confirms AOC “Doled Out” Pay Increases

  1. At a time when the large majority of judges are voluntarily decreasing their salaries and court employees are taking involuntary pay cuts, this is not only offensive but insensitive. Speaking from extensive experience in the Marine Corps and private practice, this is yet another example of poor and inept management. At some point in the future I am confident our business schools will use the AOC as an example of nonexistent and destructive leadership. The AOC is far too busy arranging for first class passage on the Titanic to see the iceberg that is rapidly approaching. Although not criminal in intent I find their actions flabbergasting at best. In what rational organizational universe does the leadership feather their own nest while the men and women on the line suffer? Oh wait…General Motors.

  2. justinianscode

    “Hello, Legislature? Judiciary here. Really sorry to hear about your 18% pay cut, staff salary freezes and all. … What’s new here? Not much. Oh, yeah, we increased AOC payroll by $4.2 mill with raises up to 31%, but other than that not much. … That’s right, we’re still closing courthouses. … OK, hope to talk to you soon about next year’s budget. … Take care of yourself now … Uh-huh … uh-huh … really, I’ve got to go … I think I hear the Chief calling. Bye.”

  3. Wow. “We did what we thought we needed to do to hold onto people we felt were valuable employees,” (William) Vickery said.

    This tells you everything that is wrong in one sentence. “We” is mentioned four times but excessive pay increases were only doled out at the top. And I am sorry, but those RAD salaries to lead large scale boondoogles in California state government is at best …

    Let’s start with gross negilgence.

  4. Well I’ll say it again, I told you so. Negative, unbelieveable rumors about the AOC almost always later = fact. That is because most of us know them only too well. I mean come on! Raises to keep valuable employees? Ok, where are the RADs going to go for more dough in this economic enviornment, except to maybe work for doh! one of the AOC’s consultants! Perhaps Deloitte!

    These raises! After laying out Placer Court for the vultures oh excuse me, AOC staff, to come in and pick the carcass clean. ala tossing out the CEO (for giving too many raises to staff and receiving what the AOC said was excess executive compensation)and laying off tons of valuable staff. I am sorry, if I seem like an AOC hater, but this just burns my bum.

    If this information released today (on top of everything else like CCMS) does not inspire revolt with judicial branch employees and spur the legislature into action, nothing will. That would be sad.

  5. justinianscode

    There is not a single employee at the AOC (as hardworking as he or she may be) who is MORE deserving of a raise than the staff here at our local courthouse. Some of them may be AS deserving, but not moreso. Not a single one.

    The Chief Justice and Judicial Council should take immediate action to rescind these appalling and costly payroll decisions. If they don’t, shame on them all.

  6. Access2Justice

    Oh, AOCW, you left out my favorite part of the article:

    Although many received raises, employees were not given an additional cost-of-living increase last fiscal year as they have in other years. Because of that and because the merit raises were smaller than in years past, Vickery’s memo said, employees were also given three extra paid days off between Thanksgiving and Jan. 2, 2009.

    The thought of this will really be warming my heart on December 16th.

  7. A key element of that article (which everyone should read) is that Bill Vickrey points out that the pay raises were specifically authorized by the Chief Justice himself. Does this sound like old Bill is looking to spread the blame?

    And a pay raise for Sheila Calabro? Remember, she is the captain of the good ship CCMS. Hundreds and hundreds of million dollars over budget and years in the making and still more to come. Is this hush money to her to keep her loyal. It cannot possibly be for good work or to keep her on the job. Where is she going to go? In private industry she would have been fired long ago and no court in the state would touch her given her track record. Can anyone say: Incompetent?

    Something smells here. What is being covered up? The Legislature should be aghast at this outrageous misuse of scarce taxpayer money.

    Take note everyone, because the AOC’s arrogance is clearly visible here. And it is now plain for even those outside of the branch to finally see. Bill Vickrey has done the Chief no favor here. And the Chief has just thumbed his nose at not only his own branch but the Legislature and Governor as well.

    So who will the AOC now send to do damage control here in Sacramento?

  8. PattyJane Smith

    PacWest 50 – I’ve heard rumor that they are sending former Senators Escutia and Dunn to clean up. Again, this is rumor not fact.

  9. Well last year Dunn was put on the Judicial Council by the Chief to add political gravitas. The result: Nada! He got fired from the CMA and is still looking for work. He is unable to find an office to run for successfully. Escutia is in it for the money.

    The next question: How much is the AOC paying for these two lobbyist to try and clean up their mess and how will the Legislature react to that effort? Most importantly: Where is the money coming from?

  10. A friend of mine opined that these raises were to pad retirement package before some of these folks leave. maybe maybe not. One can only hope

  11. Claire Voyant

    The sad part to me is that this offends literally thousands of people. In what world do you close courts, force furloughs and layoffs, and then give 10 to 14 percent raises to several people at the AOC, overpaid people who already make $100K+ per year? It’s shameful. I am tired of seeing cronyism and corruption so rampant. I can only hope the federal government is watching and will hand out indictments.

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      Since only the FBI has the power to look in and prosecute, we too hope the FBI is watching as the AOC is a huge recipient of federal funding and federal grants. Their authority for doing so is emblazoned in the Fraud Enforcement Recovery Act of 2009.

  12. It is interesting how the AOC directors got 10% raises last fiscal year. I recently heard a rumor that Bill Vickrey had approved to also pay their retirement costs, which ais about another 10% and yet I don’t think that AOC employees or other state employees received that same deal. Does anyone know anything?

  13. I thought the Tiger Woods story was good…hard to believe but the AOC pay raise story is even better. ROFLMAO.

  14. Okay, now is the time to become enraged, as this is no longer rumor. I understand an explanation of these raises was sent out, which basically said what the article said. First, we don’t want to lose key people, and second, the people who got raises are doing more. Well, for one thing, everyone throughout government is being asked to do more now. And second, what this explanation means is that those who did not receive raises are expendable. This is unacceptable. As long as the rank-and-file received no merit increases or colas, it’s seemingly inexcusable, based on what I now know, that certain chosen ones did. There may still be a yet-to-emerge better explanation for this. For example, I’m not sure the timing of all this, and the article speaks to 2008-2009 fiscal year, some of which predates the real ugliness. Or perhaps the truth is that we’re really talking about a mere handful of unique cases which, if examined individually and with an open mind, would sort of make sense. Unlike most here, I think that overall, the AOC has been a good thing, although there most definitely a heck-of-a-lot to criticize, with a centralized judiciary being far preferrable and stronger than a scattered one. And whether it’s educational programs, efforts by CFCC to improve the family law system, the assigned judges program, simplifying jury instructions, providing legal advice to courts, assisting with difficult HR matters, or hundreds of other things, the AOC does a lot of real good. And it takes a massive organization to do these thing for and support the largest court system in the world. And I know for certain that in any large government bureaucracy, inefficiencies, waste, etc. run rampant. And I know that all of those bureaucracies have their own pool of rabid haters, as we find here. Whether the AOC is worse than others, I can’t say. And I’m not optimistic in this instance that an acceptable explanation for these pay raises will emerge, and shifting justifications would cast doubt on the legitimacy of any later one. So, for now, I am enraged by this and I don’t see that changing any time soon. But I expect more scrambling on this and will listen objectively to whatever is said.

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      Mr. Bill sent out a ten thousand word explanation that doesn’t begin to explain how a few ‘valuable employees’ got raises over the rest of us.

      What’s ludicrous is his conclusion in his explanation which tells me he works too close to the tenderloin and must be sucking off a crack pipe.

      “I believe that these measures place the AOC among the most prudent managers of resources in all of state government.”

      1. CCMS coming in at 1.3- 1.7 billion
      2. Knowingly using unlicensed contractors statewide
      3. Intentional duplicate payments to select vendors
      4. Lavish judicial shindigs
      5. Falsification of timecards

      All of the above were incidents where whistleblowers came forward and were fired.

      Mr. Bills house of cards is crumbling underneath him and his statement implying that some employees are more valuable than others is just the icing on the cake.

      Dear Mr. Vickery,

      In case you haven’t figured it out, we wish to purchase you a one way ticket back to Utah,

      Please tender your resignation for the good of the branch.

      Thank you.


      The less valuable employees of the AOC

  15. Gosh Joe Montana, the theory of the AOC is great. The idea of a judicial branch is so cool. As i explained before, there is much behind the frustrations of many of the commentors here. However I must say as good as all of those things you mention sounds on paper it is just the opposite. Gosh we all felt this way at one time. The AOC is here to serve us and bring us all together.

    I feel like a parent that knows their son or daughter is marrying the wrong person, but you just have to realize that they have to find that out for themselves. Saying something negative about them will only make them want to do it all the more, and hate you for saying it.

  16. follow up thoughts: and incompetence! inefficiency, waste, incompentence, etc. are rampant at all large gov entities, including AOC. Also, in fairness, I would like to see how many of the trial courts have given raises to management personnel or other select chosen ones since 07/01/08. Not that it makes it okay for the AOC to do so, but I just think the blind AOC hatred so prevalent on this site frequently calls the AOC out exclusively and unfairly for doing stuff that is accepted or at least occurring in the trial courts as well. I know this isn’t a blog about trial court bashing, but sometimes it’s like, it’s okay for the trial court to do that but if the AOC does it, they’re the devil. And that’s the sort of thing that detracts from the legitimate function of a blog like this, as it causes many in the middle (like me) to sort of discount everyone and as discontent whacko.

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      I do have a problem with SBx211, a bill that was passed in the dead of night to allow L.A. county to continue discretionary payments of $46,000.00 per year to their judges, without those judges recusing themselves from county cases.

      There is dirt in the trial courts. Like Mendocino’s clerks pocketing bail money and giving poor infractionists hand written reciepts for that money only to find out to their amazement a warrant was later issued.

      No organization is pristine but for gods sake man, we’re the judicial branch and should be setting an example instead of letting a few bad apples spoil the entire pie.

      The AOC has some stellar people that I would confidently put up against anyone in private industry. Brilliant, knowledgable people.

      Unfortunately few of those stellar people are in management.

  17. Joe Montana

    I think you raise some legitimate points. As a counter point, trial courts are typically run by excutive committees that are democratically elected. Presiding judges and CEO’s are accountable to not only the judges and employees, but are also subject to fairly strict oversight and reporting requirements imposed by the AOC and JC. Most trial court employees are entitled to due process before termination.

    These are some of the things that differenetiate trial court governance and JC/AOC. I think the situation in Placer was an aberration. CEOs have to answer to a new PJ every two years and are subject to AOC audit. If managment employees receive a raise, the CEO and PJ are going to have to justify the increase to the other judges, staff and more importantly, the unions.

    As employees of public agencies, whetehr AOC or the trial courts, we shouldn’t have to voice our concerns and complaints on an anonymous blog. Unfortunately, there is a legitimate fear of retribution from the AOC that should not exist in government service. Any dissent, rational or not, is dismissed as uninformed and misguided. That is not fair to you, me, the Judges Alliance or anyone else whose perspective doesn’t align with the AOC/JC.

    The fact that other governmental agencies are notoriously wasteful and ineffecient doesn’t justify the actions of the AOC. Particularly when they hold themselves out as being on the cutting edge of public administration.

    I appreciate your opinions and hope that you continue to participate in these disucssions.

  18. I concur wholeheartedly LBF. There will always be people who are disgruntled, but there are plenty more who are quite rational and are legitimately upset by what they are seeing in the press. This is the judicial branch of California, the largest court system in the nation. If there is a lack of trust in — or honesty from — the leadership of our courts, then the system will continue to fray and fall apart. Is that anything that anyone wants to have happen? I don’t think so.

    If Bill and Ron and Ron decide that bankrolling Sheila’s friends at Deloitte AND giving Sheila a salary increase to boot is their number one priority, they cannot expect to have any credibility within the state building on Golden Gate or within the trial courts.

  19. justinianscode

    As Obi-Wan noted above, Bill Vickrey sent out a detailed memo in response to yesterday’s article. For some reason, though, it reveals absolutely no information that we did not already have or which we already easily surmised on our own.

    Instead, Mr. Vickrey reiterates the situation noted in the article and then insists that he has acted wisely. Many of us disagree, and our position is not based on lack of indormation. It is based on a reasoned evaluation of Mr. Vickrey’s actions. He blew it and we know it. Put another way, we can see that the Emperor has no clothes.

    One part of his memo will serve to illustrate the disconnect between AOC leadership and the rest of the world. He wrote: “for our regional administrative directors, the purpose of the adjustments was to maintain a reasonable pay equivalent with the marketplace for court executives.” Apparently Mr. Vickrey is under the impression that if the three regional directors did not receive a 10% pay raise, one or more of them would leave the AOC for better pay. Well, if they can find a better paying job elsewhere, let them go; no one is indispensible. But I seriously doubt any one of them would have left in this job market merely because she did not get a raise.

    And here’s the bottom line. Even if they would leave, this does not justify handing out raises, promotions and salary adjustments to the tune of $4.2m. Trial courts a tenth the size of the AOC’s staff have valuable employees too, but you do not see their payrolls going up by $400k+.

    We are making do with what we have, and if the AOC has an extra $4m on hand, it should go to local court operations and not increasing AOC payroll.

    • Who received the Vickery memo? Can you post it or a link?

      • justinianscode

        It starts off “AOC Colleagues”, so it looks like it was intended to be internal even though it is getting fairly wide email circulation today. Perhaps AOCWatcher will post it as a blog entry, rather than have it end up buried in this comment section.

  20. Former AOC staffer

    None of this is a surprise to me. I left the AOC last year after seeing this all around me. I am so heartened to see some of it finally bubbling to the surface. There is so much more to be revealed, just ask Dianne Bolott, Executive Office Programs Division. Soon, we’ll all know what she has done.

  21. From Today’s Recorder:

    AOC Enlists Dunn to Mend Frayed Relationships
    Cheryl Miller
    The Recorder and
    SACRAMENTO — Acting as an emissary for the judiciary, former state Sen. Joe Dunn has called labor leaders and lobbyists in Sacramento this week in an attempt to repair sour relationships with the Administrative Office of the Courts.
    Ronald Overholt, chief deputy director of the AOC, confirmed Wednesday that Dunn had contacted a number of Capitol insiders. Dunn, an Orange County Democrat and former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, volunteered to make the calls and was not paid by the AOC, Overholt said.
    “Nothing has changed in terms of him being a friend of the judiciary,” Overholt said. “He is not under contract. He’s not being paid for anything.”
    But several sources said they have been told that Dunn had either signed a contract with the AOC or was in the process of inking a financial agreement. Nick Warner, legislative director for the California State Sheriffs’ Association, said Dunn told him in a conversation this week that he was retained by the AOC to “improve relationships with key constituencies.”
    Dunn, a former member of the Judicial Council, did not return a message Wednesday seeking comment.
    Overholt also said that he was told by former state Sen. Martha Escutia that she and Dunn would soon be forming a law partnership. He did not know whether the two would also engage in lobbying.
    Overholt did not rule out the possibility of the AOC contracting with Escutia and Dunn in the future.
    “Given their new business, I don’t want to say that we’re never going to have a relationship with them,” Overholt said.
    Escutia, a partner with Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, did not return a message left at her Los Angeles office on Wednesday.
    Relations between judicial administrators and court labor groups and contractors have grown contentious over the last two years in the midst of courthouse closures, worker furloughs and severe budget cutbacks. AOC critics have been particularly angry with the agency’s decision to continue funding large-scale construction and computer projects in light of the state’s fiscal condition.
    Dunn is a traditional ally of both sides.
    “There’s a long history, and as much as we all respect and admire Sen. Dunn, these relationships won’t be quickly repaired,” said Michelle Castro, a lobbyist for the Service Employees International Union. “A tremendous amount of faith and good will needs to be extended to all of the invested parties to restore any type of respectful relationship.”
    Overholt said judicial leaders are hoping to ease strained relationships as another gloomy budget season approaches. Although the Judicial Council employs a staff of Sacramento-based advocates who regularly work with legislators and lobbyists, Overholt said that Dunn is a natural bridge-builder to bring into the political arena.
    “It’s not asking him to do something in place of our Office of Governmental Affairs,” Overholt said. “They do a fantastic job.”

  22. Former AOC Staffer: While I can understand how it may be satisfying for you to see some of the specific information posted here finally coming to light, vague, accusatory posts targeting specific individuals do not serve any useful purpose. Such posts serve only to besmirch someone’s reputation without bothering to say why.

    And another thing, Dianne B o l o t t ‘e’ (EOP’s Asst. Director) is not a rule breaker.

    • justinianscode

      Well said, Mr Jaggers. It sounds like you are very familiar with the Executive Office Programs Division. Can you explain what it does? It sounds important but I have no idea what their duties are. Thanks.

  23. First, bravo to Cheryl Miller for his story and the one regarding the unlicensed contractors maintaining court facilities! I just wish more did this sort of reporting.

    I’m fascinated by Ron Overholt’s final quote about the Office of Governmental Affairs staff doing a “fantastic job”, I guess that job was so fantastic that they managed to get the Legislature to approve giving the Judicial Council authority to close down the courts and burn every single bridge with those who should be key allies that they have to bring in someone like Joe Dunn who is actually well-respected and a bridge builder to clean up the ‘fantastic’ job of the OGA staff. Making a mess of things doesn’t strike me as fantastic unless one is using the term to decribe something imaginary, grotesque, erratic or thought of by unrestrained fancy. Then again, maybe ‘fantastic’ is the right word to use here.

  24. Someone Who Knows

    I have inserted the Memo from Bill to AOC Colleagues: I will tell you I am insulted and the information is not correct. Again he throws courts under the bus. Court leadership did not get this memo, at least not all of us. Many courts ( including mine) have not given step/merit increases to unrepresented for two years and have not provided COLOAs for anyone for 2 years. Don’t forget the hits to our budget, furloughs, ( 4.62% paycuts) freezes and layoffs and more….
    See below:

    AOC Colleagues:

    The Daily Journal legal newspaper ran an article today focusing on AOC salary increases for the prior two fiscal years, 2007-2008 and

    2008-2009 (below). I regret that the story does not reflect the sacrifice and enormous dedication each of you continues to display in efforts to support the judicial branch. I also know and appreciate that more context would be helpful in understanding the issues. I want to share some of that background information with you.

    Cost-Saving Measures and Exemption Process Beginning in fiscal year 2007-2008, the judicial branch as a whole, and specifically this office, began taking steps to address cost issues facing the nation and the state. These cost-saving measures, which have been shared with you previously, included, among other actions, a reduced number of in-person meetings; cancellation of the statewide judicial branch conference, saving $250,000; and a reduced number of education programs and increased education on a regional basis to achieve savings and manage costs for local courts and the state. Additionally, the filling of vacant positions, reclassifications, and promotions were made subject to review and approval by the AOC’s Finance Director and Chief Deputy Director. These practices were implemented throughout the latter part of fiscal year 2007-2008 and into fiscal year 2008-2009.

    Merit Salary Adjustments (Step Increases) Within the executive branch of state government, in the judicial branch-the appellate courts, the AOC, and the trial courts-and in county and state government, it is common practice to establish pay ranges that include multiple steps. Under this system, employees who are in good standing and have the required time of service receive step increases each year until they reach the top of their pay ranges. Within the appellate courts and the AOC, these step increases have been referred to as merit salary adjustments. The amount represented by the step increase may vary from 2.5 to 5 percent depending on what the different entities’ pay plans call for and the availability of funding.

    Who approves this plan for the appellate courts and the AOC?

    Pursuant to statute, each year the Chief Justice makes the decision about whether MSAs will be granted and the level at which they are granted. The individual supervisors and managers work with Human Resources to see that the step increases are provided to the eligible employees on their anniversary dates. The Chief Justice does not review any individual adjustments; nor do I or the Chief Deputy Director.

    What is the anniversary date?

    This is the date upon which each eligible employee may receive his or her step increase. Not all employees have the same date and not all employees’ anniversary dates are on the date on which they are hired. Over time, those anniversary dates may change, such as when MSAs have been frozen for periods of time and dates are reset to try to prevent inequities.

    What typically has been the level of the step increases for the AOC during the last number of years?

    The step increase has normally been 3.5 percent per year. In the executive branch, this figure has been set at 5 percent per year. The level of step increase for trial courts varies from court to court; some received 2.5 percent increases and others 5 percent.

    Is everybody continuing to get step increases?

    Within the AOC and the appellate courts, as was broadcast, step increases were implemented for all eligible employees in fiscal years

    2007-2008 and 2008-2009. This year, step increases were frozen. In the executive branch, they continue to provide step increases at 5 percent. It is our understanding that all trial courts, with the exception of one court, are continuing to provide step increases. I support the notion that we want organizations to be able to provide these adjustments when possible, and we look forward to being able to reinstate them within the appellate courts and the AOC in the future.

    When are the MSAs granted? It seems like some years the step increase has been delayed and then we get retroactive pay. Is that correct?

    Yes. When the budget has been late, often the result is that the MSA is not implemented until the fall, and so those eligible to receive MSAs in July receive retroactive pay as well as ongoing increases. Our payroll from July through whenever the MSA is granted will not indicate that increases are available, and then, in the month of October, November, or December when an MSA has been approved, it will show the increase plus the retroactive payments.

    Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLA)

    Who authorizes COLAs?

    Cost-of-living adjustments for the state and the judicial branch must be authorized by the Legislature and the Governor. After that approval, the Chief Justice has to approve implementation in the judicial branch.

    For the executive branch, like the appellate courts and the AOC, a COLA of 3.4 percent was received on July 1 of fiscal year 2007-2008.

    Neither the executive branch or the appellate courts and AOC received a COLA in fiscal year 2008-2009 or the current fiscal year, 2009-2010.

    For trial courts, an average COLA of 3.1 percent and step increases ranging from 2.5 to 5 percent were provided in calendar years 2008 and 2009.

    Vacancy Management and Exemptions

    New Positions

    On July 1, 2009, we had a vacancy rate of 15 percent. Recently

    77 vacant positions were permanently eliminated. While we continue to manage costs in this area, there were also new positions authorized by the Legislature in fiscal years 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 relating primarily to the operation of the state court financial system, court facilities, and technology.


    During the past two and a half years, through the review and exemption process, authorization has been given to fill certain vacancies, and in some areas as duties evolved (e.g., the AOC’s assumption of responsibility for all trial court facilities and the expansion of fiscal services to the trial courts under the Phoenix program) a limited number of promotions and equity pay adjustments were made. Some were due to the retirement of senior level employees; for our regional administrative directors, the purpose of the adjustments was to maintain a reasonable pay equivalent with the marketplace for court executives. The job of the court executive has significantly increased in size and complexity over the past 10 years, and appropriately their compensation reflects that. We do not seek to place our regional administrators at the top of these pay ranges but rather in an appropriate range within that marketplace to ensure that we continue to have the experience of former court executives serving in these regional positions.


    Taken together and when compared with the practices in many courts and other state agencies in the last two years, I believe that these measures place the AOC among the most prudent managers of resources in all of state government.. That is something we should all be proud of as California struggles through this economic crisis. I know that the mandatory furlough and the challenge of doing more with less are difficult for everyone. I hope that this information serves to provide context for the considered approach we have taken in managing significant fiscal challenges while doing everything possible to retain valued employees and recognize your contributions to this organization and our justice system.

    Thank you for your continued commitment and service.


  25. From the Courtinfo site:

    The Executive Office Programs Division performs a variety of logistical, analytical, and management services for the Judicial Council, the AOC, and the courts related to planning, research, communications, jury service, grant administration, promoting innovative and effective court programs statewide, and staff support for the council and key internal and advisory committees.

    I understand that they are also responsible for administration of the court interpreter program and branchwide communications.

  26. A few things I’d like to point out in defense of a few people:
    1) Mr. Griffiths came to the AOC as a Senior Budget Analyst in the Finance Division. He applied for the Manager position in another division when this position became available. Having met the requisite qualifications, Mr. Griffiths was offered the position. As per Judicial Branch Policy, upon promotion, staff will receive a 5% salary increase or the minimum of the new position, whichever is greater. Mr. Griffiths received the MINIMUM of the Manager’s salary. Mr. Griffiths came from the private sector and he possesses a Master’s Degree. At the time he came to the AOC, the Senior Budget Analyst position was the position available to him that could let him in the door. A lot of people do this as a way to get their foot in the door. They apply for a lower level job even though their qualifications, experience, and skill set are more appropriate for a high level job. Unfortunately, the article does Mr. Griffiths a disservice as it does not tell the whole truth. Someone picked the juicy parts and decided to go with it. Poor guy. Before this article, hardly anyone’s even heard of him and now he’s portrayed as some greedy person who received an unbelievable 31% pay increase without any explanation as to why.

    2) As for the 3 OCCM Managers, the increases were made in order to align their salaries with other managers in the division. But more importantly, to ensure that there is pay parity between male and female managers. I think this is a commendable action on their part. And these are some of the hardest working managers in the AOC.

    3) As for the 10% raises given to the 3 Regional Administrative Directors, well, that’s just plain dumb.

    I’m not saying giving out raises doesn’t look bad. It does look bad. But I’d like people to have the facts at hand before they pass judgment.

  27. The public should be asking why is the AOC raising salaries while local courts suffer through furloughs layoffs and court closures? It is time to ask more big picture questions- How did the CJ come to control an entire branch of government? Why isn’t the Judicial Council democratized? When did the Judicial Council approve spending one billion dollars on a statewide computer system?
    Why does the CJ attack any judge who raises these concerns as shrill, uninformed and uninterested in providing the public access to the courts?
    As a I pointed out in another post we need to come up with a plan for positive change! Join me here in proposing ideas we can take to the people so meaningful change can occur!

  28. The Alliance of California Judges

    The Alliance of California Judges has come up with a plan.

    In the upcoming Legislative session, our Alliance suggests that the Legislature act to restore public confidence in our court budgeting process by acting in three areas.

    First, the Legislature should reaffirm the rights of the local trial courts by putting into law the Trial Court Bill of Rights which the Judicial Council failed to adopt.

    Second, the Legislature should establish a separate trial court advisory group, consisting of active trial judges elected by judges from the 58 county trial courts, which would advise the Judicial Council, oversee the AOC, and report upon the judicial budget and judicial affairs to the public, the governor, and the Judicial Council itself. This group would also serve the original purposes of the trial court budget commission. These judges would volunteer, and would have staff assistance provided by funds already allocated to the AOC.

    Finally, the Alliance believes that the Legislature should act to place the employees of the AOC under the existing protections of the “whistle blower” statutes, to ensure that employees feel free to bring their concerns about operations of the AOC to public light.

  29. Judicial observer


    What is the “Trial Court Bill of Rights” to which you refer? What do you mean the Judicial Council failed to adopt one? Was one proposed?

    Your suggestion for an oversight committee of trial court judges is very good. Should they report or make recommendations to the legislature as well? Could they be a clearinghouse for AOC employee concerns (whistleblowers)?

    Finally, isn’t the real problem the fact that the Judicial Council is run like a dictatorship, without any elected representatives beholding to the courts rather than to the Chief Justice and “his” AOC staff? Can this be changed through the legislature?

  30. Judicial observer


    What is the “Trial Court Bill of Rights” to which you refer? What do you mean the Judicial Council failed to adopt one? Was one proposed?

    Your suggestion for an oversight committee of trial court judges is very good. Should they report or make recommendations to the legislature as well? Could they be a clearinghouse for AOC employee concerns (whistleblowers)?

    Finally, isn’t the real problem the fact that the Judicial Council is run like a dictatorship, without any elected representatives beholding to the courts rather than to the Chief Justice and “his” AOC staff? Can this be changed through the legislature?

    • The Alliance of California Judges

      In the findings and declarations by the Legislature in adopting the Lockyer-Isenberg Trial Court Funding Act of 1997 (AB 233), the Legislature stated in Sec. 3 (l) that the Judicial Council was to adopt a Trial Courts Bill of Financial Management Rights, to be approved no later than January 1, 1998. The language I reference is that the Legislature intended to, as follows:

      “Acknowledge the need for strong and independent local court financial management, including encouraging the adoption by the Judicial Council of a Trial Courts Bill of Financial Management Rights, to be approved no later than January 1, 1998. This bill of management rights shall minimize the rules and regulations in the area of financial affairs to those sufficient to guarantee efficiency, but shall give strong preference to the need for local flexibility in the management of court financial affairs.”

      The Judicial Council never complied. The AOC contends that the Trial Court Financial Policies and Procedures Manual which sets forth trial court mandates is a substitute!

  31. Reading that memo from Mr. Bill (and thank you for posting it) was a chore. That guy can take a simple answer to a question and turn it into a tome and still not justify his response. I am happy to hear that the Alliance is holding the JC’s fee to the fire on the Bill of Financial Management Rights and it is amazing that the AOC suggests that manual is a subsitute! That manual was produced by the AOC with assistance from trial court fiscal staff but it was not until later that the CEOs/Judges found out that the group working on this manual was actually setting policy without the CEOs or Judicial input or approval. I hope the Alliance is successful. As said here earlier, we need positive change at the AOC and with the JC. Judicial oversight of the branch and the AOC could provide that. Great ideas.

  32. “the purpose of the (RAD) adjustments was to maintain a reasonable pay equivalent with the marketplace for court executives.”

    If the AOC frowns on misconduct by CEO’s, why did it allow what may prove to be gross negligence and misconduct by a regional director and possibly others in the AOC? I thought raises were for people who do a good job, not for people who hired their friends and may have broken competitive bidding and public contracting laws (all to the tune of millions of dollars!).

    Just a thought for the day.

  33. What is there left to say?

    We are abused. We are not valued. We are left spinning in the wind.

    Management (read Bill Vickrey) gravely furrows their brows and shakes their heads. They make funny little noises in their throats and then write little memos that they can’t even take the time to make rational or address real issues or even make the least attempt to cover up their lies, and they inform us how valuable we are and how much the Chief appreciates our contribution and while they would love to help us out, the cupboard is just too bare.

    And all the while they are laughing at our predicament and living it up.

    We take a 5% pay cut and they take 14% pay raises. Based on inflation most of us make far less than we did even a few years ago.

    We work with poorly designed and poorly executed systems and they buy themselves mountaintop home offices because they’re too lazy to come into the office.

    We try working within the rules, because we believe in what we do and they make exceptions for themselves and their pals, just because they can.

    And they continue to laugh at us when they even bother to consider us at all.

    Do not for one minute believe that management (and yes, that starts with the Chief) has one iota of concern for the workers in the Judicial Branch. As long as we come in every morning, as long as we do our work and keep our heads down, management will continue to take advantage of us and keep smirking at our efforts to improve our condition.

    Giving us little division year-end parties are designed to pacify and quiet us, sort of like throwing a biscuit to a howling dog. And they can’t even pay for those;, might cut into the Presidential suite budget!

    Management comes to us, crying poor, telling us our jobs rely on us doing more with less resources and less money when all the while they take more and more and more.

    Even when it becomes so apparent that they are incompetent in their jobs that even the Legislature and the press takes notice, they reward themselves and say they have to do it because the incompetent might leave and take jobs elsewhere. Exactly where has never been made clear.

    What about us? I guess we’re not important enough to really consider what our lives are like, those of us who make far less than the $195,000. We who don’t get state cars with free gas. The ones who don’t get the fancy trips while staying at the best hotels. Those of us who really make this place work.

    You know though, one thing they’re counting on, they’re counting on us not understanding that there are more of us than there are of them.

    We do the work that not only would they not want to do, they are incapable of doing. When speaking of the Judicial Branch, management needs to realize it is not the buildings or documents or anything else.

    It is us! We’re the ones that make this whole thing work. The one thing that we do have is control over ourselves. We can hold back our labor and make management understand exactly how valuable we are.

    Once we begin to value ourselves management can only stand by and watch as we make the Judicial Branch once again a place we are proud to work in.

    The day when the Judicial Branch returns to benefiting all Californians is coming soon, but that can only happen after the employees regain the respect of management.

  34. In Casablanca Captain Renault, says,”I’m shocked, shocked to find out that gambling is going on in here!”

    Chief Justice George: the Judicial Council is not democratic and its members vote the way I tell them to vote (except for one rebel from LA)

    The Judicial Council runs the AOC.

    It should not shock anyone that the AOC would, in the most arrogant fashion one can think of, give themselves pay raises while everyone else such as the public and the local courts suffer.

    In fact, Omerta would have been shocked if the AOC did not give themselves raises…..they are tone deaf to the public and the Legislature as are the Judicial Council and Chief Justice George.
    What they have done in this case is completely consistent with their beliefs which are that the Judicial Council and the AOC are the judiciary and that the normal rules of political behavior do not apply to them. Welcome to the Imperial Judiciary bound by no rules except ones they impose upon themselves.

    Here’s looking at you, kid.

  35. Sacramento Bee
    Editorial: Tipping the scales of the indefensible
    Published Saturday, Dec. 12, 2009

    A new report hinting at profligate spending by the Administrative Office of the Courts has set off more criticism from a small but vocal band of judges who think the state court bureaucracy has become too bloated and powerful.

    The Daily Journal reported this week that the Administrative Office of the Courts promoted nearly 80 employees and raised pay by as much as 31 percent for at least one of its employees last fiscal year.

    The Journal, California’s leading legal affairs newspaper, analyzed pay records from the State Controller’s Office. It found that, despite the fiscal emergency facing state courts, payroll costs at the 1,000-employee AOC grew 6 percent in the last fiscal year, by $4.2 million.

    Ronald Overholt, deputy director of state court administration, attributes most of the increase to courthouse maintenance, responsibility for which shifted last year from counties to the state. As a result, AOC had to increase its maintenance staff to take care of more than 500 county court buildings.

    The AOC also gave pay raises that William Vickery, the administrative director of the state court, defended. He says the agency awarded its employees smaller merit increases in most cases than the step increases going to employees of the executive branch and local courts. Some of the larger raises, he says, were necessary to keep talented top-level workers.

    As for one employee who received a 31 percent pay hike, Overholt said he deserved a promotion because of specific computer skills.

    None of those explanations are likely to satisfy local judges and other critics of the AOC. Their complaints come as California courts, struggling to absorb a 10 percent budget cut totaling $414 million, have been forced to close down one day a month.

    The only way the AOC is likely to reassure jurists and the public is to undergo an independent state audit. The Legislature ought to direct either the state auditor or the Legislative Analyst’s Office to perform one.

  36. 10% for the Regional Directors????

    I wonder how much larger Sheila’s raise would have been if the CCMS project wasn’t: years behind schedule, millions of dollars over budget, and incompently managed .

    I thought only CEO’s of large financial instiutions who needed federal bailout funds to avoid bankruptcy received huge raises for poor performance.

  37. no matter how you feel about the AOC as like others have said, this just does not pass the “smell test”. I am glad the SACTO Bee picked this issue up so that it will keep the public, legislature and media informed.

    Lets support the Alliance of the Judges (i.e. write or email your local represntatives in the legislature) in their quest to reduce the dictatorship of the Chief and the AOC over the branch.

  38. Unfortunately, every AOC director and Judicial Council member has booked their passage on the U.S.S. Version(s). One guiding principle commonly cited during CCMS presentations in 2007 was spot on: “Silence means consent.” You can still find them online. My other favorite is the cryptic “It is what it is.”

    Captain Calabro will sail her ship to whatever land or port it takes her, or until it crashes on a rocky shore. My recommendation would be to change the captain, but that’s just me being a good cost-conscious soldier.

  39. Captain Clalbro is an example of the Peter Principle: In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his/her level of incompetence.

    If you saw her at the Legislative Hearings you would see what I mean.

  40. Captain Calabro of the USS Version(s)… or the HMS Titanic?

  41. So, let’s see if I got this right:

    Sometime in Fiscal Year 08-09, as the AOC’s executive management were hashing out their FY 09-10 budget, expecting a dire budget situation for all of California, they decided that in order to save money they will have to ask everyone to sacrifice a little. So for the Fiscal Year 09-10 budget, they implemented the following:

    1) court closure on the 3rd Wednesday of every month
    2) mandatory furloughs for all employees on the 3rd Wed of each month which equals to about 5% cut in pay
    3) no MSAs, no COLAs
    4) 10% pay increases for all regional administrative directors effective FY 08-09

    One of the reasons given by the behind door#4 is that the regional directors’ responsibilities have increased. I thought that since there has been their so-called hiring freeze that almost everyone was doing more with less. So how come the little people didn’t get recognized for their “valuable contributions” and “increased job responsibilities” with a 10% pay increase as well? Fair is fair, no?

    Would any of these 3 regional directors really have left if they didn’t get their 10%? And go where? All 3 came from the courts. Is there a court exec leaving soon?

    So while AOC employees were asked to participate in a “voluntary furlough” giving up 5% of their pay in FY 08-09, these 3 received a 10% raise?

    AOC rank and file must be feeling warm and fuzzy all over.

  42. Not warm and fuzzy. More like cold and angry.

    Part of me wonders if this move to increase pay to the tune of $4.2 million is deliberate to encourage the “little people” to leave the AOC in the coming year(s). At some point, and I do think it’s inevitable if it has not already happened, the Chief will get a memo from the management team about layoffs at the AOC. When the team if forced to choose who to recommend for layoffs, particularly in light of these salary increases … it’s not going to be pretty.

  43. Omerta, The JC does not run the AOC; it’s the other way around. If you’ve ever seen the binders the AOC provides council members before one of their business meetings, you’d understand better how the AOC gets to set policy. It would take a super human to read through one of those tomes! I suspect most members only manage to peruse the ‘executive summary,’ before casting their votes. And you better believe, all the information has been carefully filtered and slanted.

  44. On December 11th the following announcement was made via Court News Update

    Reevaluating How the AOC Does Business

    An internal agencywide review is the next step in our continuing efforts to be more efficient, cut costs, and reexamine our priorities, structure, and business processes.

    My bet is that there will be some job cuts made here.

    Those jobs that will be cut will consist of any person not towing the AOC’s line – like the whistleblower who is responsible for IT facilities design statewide.

    “We didn’t eliminate that position because he blew the whistle, we eliminated that position as a normal course of business”

  45. Josh is correct. I think people would be shocked, however, if they knew how much of the AOC is run by J. Huffman.

    And John Henry, you are giving them too much credit. That would imply a plan. There is no planning at the AOC and that is the problem. They gave the salary increases because they were greedy and they could give them. There was no foresight regarding robbing Peter to pay Paul.

    And any kind of restructuring that would be meaningful would require layoffs or pay cuts at higher levels. They don’t want to go to there, because they don’t plan and they do not think through the consequences of their actions. It’s shameful at best. I won’t use the other adjective that will come out loud and clear in the coming months (but it has 7 letters and starts with a c and ends with a t).

  46. Oh those that know the AOC/JC know how much power J Huffman has. Lets all not forget the committees RUPRO and E&P who review everything before it goes to the JC. I believe Huffman chairs one or both. To give you an example of how much power these committees hold, a few years ago the Court Executive Officers Advisory Committee held a special meeting with Bill and Ron present to discuss the composition/governance of the committee. It was unanimously agreed by the committee to make several positive changes. So the recommendation was to be sent to the JC. Well, it got killed in one of those committees and never saw the light of day at the JC.That is how getting trial court input and what they do with it works at the AOC.

  47. AOC insiders know that Justice Richard D. Huffman has been on the Judicial Council since the Baby Jesus was in the manger. The Justice chairs the JC’s Executive and Planning Committee ( E & P ), which sets the agenda for every JC business meeting (i.e., he and the other members of E & P control the information that does/does not come before the JC). He can and does kill reports or portions of reports that do not toe the line of the AOC’s or his own policy priorities. As for improved JC governance, don’t hold your breath on that one. Those who wield power generally aren’t open to changes that would dilute their authority.

  48. I hate the AOC

    Lando // December 10, 2009 at 11:18 pm |

    ” It is time to ask more big picture questions- How did the CJ come to control an entire branch of government? Why isn’t the Judicial Council democratized?”

    I think this is the key to change. The JC is a joke! King George appoints and controls them to justify every wrong thing he does. Apparently, they passed a resolution today at the JC meeting supporting the AOC raises.

    How are we supposed to hold this “elected” official accountable when he has a 10-year term. I think it’s time to impeach King George. Put the power back in the hands of the people!

    • justinianscode

      They passed a resolution? It’s not on the agenda. I will be interested to see if that is in the minutes.

      The California Judges Association issued a press release today that calls for all upper AOC management salary decisions to be approved by the Judicial Council ahead of time, and drops all CJA support for the Voluntary Salary Waiver program.

  49. Pingback: Court Closure Day: On the 16th Day of December the AOC Gave to Me « AOC Watcher