Sacramento Bee Editorial: “Tipping the scales of the indefensible”

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.

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6 responses to “Sacramento Bee Editorial: “Tipping the scales of the indefensible”

  1. This editorial by the Sacramento Bee will certainly cause excitement at the AOC on Monday. La Parodia is certain that the Office of Governmental Affairs will, after consulting with Mr. Vickery, issue a Press Release telling the Bee why they are misinformed .

    Let La Parodia suggest this Press Release from the AOC:

    EXISTENCE OF THE PUBLIC USING THE COURTS IS A SUPRISE SAYS THE CHIEF JUSTICE.

    In response to the outcry over the AOC raises when the courts were being closed one day a month the Chief Justice said that he was to blame and that he takes full responsibility. The Chief explained that he was unaware that the Public used the Courts.”I guess I have been living a very private life here in Bagdad by the Bay, drinking fine wines provided by that wonderful Foundation in Southern California, guarded 24/7 by two CHP officers, and communicating with the Judicial Leaders and Stakeholders via email and the telephone. I just did not know that the Public actually used the courts. I thought our 1.7 billion CCMS system would not require that the Public make a physical appearance in the Courts as they used to have to do in the olden days. Then I received a DVD from the Alliance of California Judges containing images of actual people being turned away at the courthouse doors. I will try to remedy this situation and mention the needs of the Public in future speeches.”

    When his aides briefed the Chief Justice on the fact that court furloughs had put some clerks and interpreters in financial difficulties because of a loss of income he seemed quite suprised. “I grew up in a wealthy family. We spoke French. We had nannies and drivers. I just sort of thought everyone lived this way.”

    Mr. Vickrey, the head of the AOC, then added that he was going to look into the Public using the Courts and he would give it a great deal of thought. “Perhaps a full service court located in Modesto for Northern California and in Barstow for Southern California, open from 8 in the morning to five at night every day of the week except Saturdays, Sundays, and Court Holidays while the other Courts operated using the CCMS system,would be the answer. I am going to consult my colleagues about this.”

  2. I have no doubt that the Chief is divorced from day-to-day operations of the AOC and the trial courts. I don’t know who advises him and I am beginning to think that no one does.

    • Yea, but I just finished reading Mr. Paul’s postings over at the legal pad (WOW! JUST WOW!) and it appears that Mr. Paul emailed the Chief directly, so unless somebody screens the Chief’s emails, he should be well aware that there are problems in his house.

      And, as they say….ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law!

  3. Like I said before, if the AOC still runs the way it used to, NOTHING gets to the Chief without going through Bill first. But perhaps the Chief has just been a coma all of this time and will wake up and smell the coffee soon. Or kinda like the old days in soviet Russia when the head of state disappeared and no one saw him for months but yet he still issued edicts, issued press releases, etc. and then suddenly it would be announced that he died. Maybe one of these senarios is place at the AOC and it is really Mr. Bill speaking for the chief. That would be the only acceptable excuse(s) for the chief’s not knowing what is going on. In all seriousness, I just can’t believe he does not have any clue.

  4. Latest on CCMS:

    Viewpoints: Statewide court computer system is beyond repair
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    Buzz up!By Loren E. McMaster and Maryanne G. Gilliard
    Special to The Bee
    Published: Sunday, Dec. 13, 2009 – 12:00 am | Page 3E
    Last Modified: Sunday, Dec. 13, 2009 – 11:06 am
    The column by J. Clark Kelso promoting spending taxpayer money for the statewide California Case Management System (Viewpoints, Dec. 1) omitted important facts.

    First, Kelso has no direct experience with the CCMS. Second, in his current role as Federal Court Receiver, he is paid over $18,000 monthly by the Administrative Office of the Courts – the agency responsible for the troubled $1.7 billion computer system Mr. Kelso so ardently defends.

    In 2004, the Legislative Analyst’s Office reported that no business plan was ever created to assess the costs and benefits of the system. It is not surprising that a computer system awarded on a no-bid contract has skyrocketed from an estimated $260.2 million in 2004 to over $1.7 billion with no completion date in sight. That’s over $1 million per judge at a time when the public is being locked out of their courts due to budget constraints.

    The no-bid contract was only one of several highly questionable decisions made by the AOC. For instance, they chose not to observe courts that have cost-effective systems that work, such as the U.S. District Court in Sacramento. They awarded the contract to a vendor who located the system’s servers out of state and who last year was forced to pay or cancel invoices totaling $18.25 million to the L.A. Unified School District because of a failed computer system.

    Sacramento Bee reporter Robert Lewis accurately described CCMS’ products as follows: “One was a dud, one is off to a rocky start, and one might never be finished.”

    Sacramento’s Court spends approximately $1 million yearly to staff the case management system. Because of shrinking budgets, we no longer have the staff needed for the labor-intensive data entry. Long lines form daily to file documents due to the system’s poor design. As of October, a backlog of approximately 18,000 documents has resulted. Last July, the AOC and its pricey consultants were shocked when their planned demonstration went awry because the system took too long to load and operate.

    The accepted definition of a failed project is one that is over budget, overtime, and/or does not meet the user’s needs. The California Case Management System has experienced all three. A new computer system that works and does not overburden the taxpayer would be welcome. CCMS is not that system.

    The AOC should allocate scarce resources to keep courthouses open and not continue this past year’s priority spending on a failed computer system.

  5. CCMS is a billion dollar boondoggle that the JC puts ahead of the peoples access to the courts. Those that would agree with this fall into the CJ’s group of uninformed shrill critics who seek “to dismantle the statewide administration of justice because with the statewide administration of justice comes accountability”. How ironic again. What accountability exists when further dollars are poured into CCMS at the expense of people who need to use the courts every day ? Thanks to all here that propose the most effective way to achieve real accountability- democratization of the Judicial Council. Lets go out and seek that positive change!