After all the attention the AOC has gotten these past few months, nobody attending the Judicial Council’s meeting on the 15th expected it to be anything but boring. And the Council did not disappoint when Judge Michael Vicencia, current president of the California Judges Association and a LA Superior Court judge, announced that the CJA was urging the Council to take more responsibility and oversight of the AOC, especially in light of media coverage of the raises the AOC gave to staff members in one of the worst fiscal years the California judicial system has ever faced.
As I’ve posted before, in his letter Judge Vicencia stated that, “As the elected members of the Judicial Branch, judges must take greater oversight of the bureaucracy of the branch. Judges must demonstrate their ability to be good stewards of the people’s money.” Needless to say Judge Vicencia’s pleas for greater accountability were as welcome to the majority of the Judicial Council members as the orphan Oliver was welcome by the board of the workhouse when he asked for more food.
Judge Richard Huffman was so peeved by Judge Vicencia’s request he interrupted Justice George midsentence so that he could say his piece and lay into Judge Vicencia and the CJA for their position. He also lit into the media by saying:
“I’ll be damned if I’m of a mood to support some major overhaul of the Judicial Council’s governance policy because of some newspaper article that caused some judges to get angry and the CJA to react.”
Judge Huffman’s position was backed by a majority of his fellow Judicial Council members who showed their knack for staying the course by supporting the AOC as Cheryl Miller for the Daily Recorder reports.
Vicencia called on the council to take control of the AOC’s salary scales and top managers’ compensation packages.
“My suggestion was that instead of just leaving that up to the chief justice, that should be debated in the Judicial Council,” Vicencia said after the meeting. “Elected judges should be the ones to make those decisions.”
But his proposal was immediately shot down by other council members who equated the idea to micromanaging. Chief Justice Ronald George and others blamed the media for spreading “disinformation” about the AOC’s actions and treating the agency “like a pinata.”
In slapping down Vicencia’s proposal, the council, on a majority voice vote, ultimately adopted a hastily drafted resolution expressing its support for the AOC’s personnel compensation policies.
Ah, yes. When all else fails. Blame the messenger. How unrefreshingly typical of the Judicial Council. I don’t know why I should expect any different.
But I must commend Judge Vicencia and the CJA for having the nerve to stand up to the JC and the AOC. After facing the ire of the Judicial Council members Judge Vicencia was quoted in the article as saying “My fear is that judges and the public are going to quickly lose confidence in the branch’s ability to manage its finances.” I really hate to break it to you, Judge, but any confidence people had in the judicial branch was lost AGES ago. Still, as they say in recovery, acknowledging you have a problem is the first step.