Op-Ed: The Twelve Days of an AOC Christmas

I had this sent in by a former AOC employee who wanted to share this with everyone. Happy Holidays to all AOC Watcher readers.

The Twelve Days of an AOC Christmas

On the first day of Christmas the AOC gave to me
A pink slip in a bare tree.

On the second day of Christmas the AOC gave to me
Two unlicensed contractors
And a pink slip in a bare tree.

On the third day of Christmas the AOC gave to me
Three bungled audits
Two unlicensed contractors
And a pink slip in a bare tree.

On the fourth day of Christmas the AOC gave to me
Four budget cuts
Three bungled audits
Two unlicensed contractors
And a pink slip in a bare tree.


On the fifth day of Christmas the AOC gave to me
Five shiny lies
Four budget cuts
Three bundled audits
Two unlicensed contractors
And a pink slip in a bare tree.

On the sixth day of Christmas the AOC gave to me
Six lawsuits-a-laying
Five shiny lies
Four budget cuts
Three bungled audits
Two unlicensed contractors
And a pink slip in a bare tree.

On the seventh day of Christmas the AOC gave to me
Seven no-bid contracts
Six lawsuits-a-laying
Five shiny lies
Four budget cuts
Three bungled audits
Two unlicensed contractors
And a pink slip in a bare tree.

On the eighth day of Christmas the AOC gave to me
Eight federal agents
Seven no-bid contracts
Six lawsuits-a-laying
Five shiny lies
Four budget cuts
Three bungled audits
Two unlicensed contractors
And a pink slip in a bare tree.

On the ninth day of Christmas the AOC gave to me
Nine furlough days
Eight federal agents
Seven no-bid contracts
Six lawsuits-a-laying
Five shiny lies
Four budget cuts
Three bungled audits
Two unlicensed contractors
And a pink slip in a bare tree.

On the tenth day of Christmas the AOC gave to me
Ten legislators leaping
Nine furlough days
Eight federal agents
Seven no-bid contracts
Six lawsuits-a-laying
Five shiny lies
Four budget cuts
Three bungled audits
Two unlicensed contractors
And a pink slip in a bare tree.

On the eleventh day of Christmas the AOC gave to me
Eleven puppets bowing
Ten legislators leaping
Nine furlough days
Eight federal agents
Seven no-bid contracts
Six lawsuits-a-laying
Five shiny lies
Four budget cuts
Three bungled audits
Two unlicensed contractors
And a pink slip in a bare tree.

On the twelfth day of Christmas the AOC gave to me
Twelve evasive answers
Eleven puppets bowing
Ten legislators leaping
Nine furlough days
Eight federal agents
Seven no-bid contracts
Six lawsuits-a-laying
Five shiny lies
Four budget cuts
Three bungled audits
Two unlicensed contractors
And a pink slip in a bare tree.

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104 responses to “Op-Ed: The Twelve Days of an AOC Christmas

  1. Thank you AOC-W for exposing truths and providing some humor along the way. My hope for AOC employees in the coming year is that they learn to see again (and know right from wrong, that no one is above the law, and that those who break the rules are nothing but malignant forces that poison the entire organization). There are such capable people in the AOC who are proud to be part of the important work that takes place in the California courts. But if the leadership continues to tolerate corruption and treat people in an inhumane way, they should expect to be turned upon until they are expelled. It is written, and I can already see the sun shining. Happy holidays.

  2. Amen sister. I would like to see a future where justice and penalties touch everyone in the AOC who has broken the law, and not just parents who pretend to put their kid in a hot air balloon to get attention. Because really, isn’t that what everyone is hiding and running from – the strong arm of the law? No one who works in or for the courts is above the law.

  3. The duty that I owe is to ensure that justice prevails. My pursuit remains relentless.

    It is the duty that I owe.

    Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and please be safe.

  4. I can’t help but wonder what planet y’all live on out there in AOC Watcher Land. Have any of you noticed the yawning hole in the state budget? Anybody out there heard about the executive branch getting hit with not one, but THREE furlough days per month?

    How exactly the AOC is the big bad Grinch in all of this escapes me.

    For those of you who actually care about facts, consider this. After the AOC convinced the legislature & governor to apply the State Appropriations Limit (SAL) to the trial courts’ budgets in 2005, the total budget of the courts grew by $365 million, more than a 15% increase over the 2005 baseline of roughly $2 billion.

    Transparency in budgeting is what you want? Check it out, the allocations from 2005, 2006 & 2007, all posted online:

    2005: SAL adds $130.7 million to baseline budgets of trial courts, see attachment 2 http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/jc/documents/reports/0705item1.pdf

    2006: SAL adds $111.4 million to baseline budgets of trial courts, see attachment 2 http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/jc/documents/reports/082506item7.pdf

    2007: SAL adds $124.7 million to baseline budgets of trial courts, see attachment 2 http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/jc/documents/reports/083107item7.pdf

    Could it be that all of the sound and fury coming from the “Watcher” is more about protecting turf than anything else? Maybe it’s really about that small minority in the courts who fought against every single progressive, good-government measure advocated by the Chief Justice: from trial court unification, to state funding, to educational requirements for judges.

    Staff in the courts and the AOC are unified in their desire to improve the court system in the state of California. The “Watcher” and its fans look like they’re just seizing the opportunity created by the fiscal crisis to sow divisions in the branch.

    Shame on y’all!

    • Holmes

      I think we are all interested in facts. No one wants to take a position that does not have a firm foundation in reality.

      First, I don’t think anyone here has taken the position that trial court funding, unification or SAL funding have not related in positive benefits to the Courts. The AOC and its staff provide valuable assistance to the trial courts.

      I find your closing statement, “Shame on y’all!”, very interesting and, unfortunately, all too consistent with the message the AOC leadership and the CJ have been sending out for years. The message is that dissent is not welcome and anyone who disagrees with AOC/JC policy is more concerned about their own interests than the interests of the branch. I don’t know if that was the intended message. However, that has been the perception. And that is a fact.

      When I have asked if existing JC policies such as CCMS or facility construction could be reconsidered in light of the current fiscal situation, I have been told no and that, “If it is JC policy, it is going to happen.”

      This highlights a fundamental flaw in the current governance structure of the JC. Policy decisions are made based primarily on AOC recommendations. Ask anyone who has ever attended a JC meeting – there is no opportunity for debate or discussion from any one other than a JC member. Since the members rely almost exclusively on memos drafted by the AOC staff in preparing for the meetings, almost all policy issues are passed on an unanimous vote.

      Once the policy is implemented by AOC management, any one who questions or disagrees with the policy is labeled as being opposed to JC policy and therefore, the good of the branch.

      I don’t know Mr. Vickery, Mr. Overholt or the CJ and therefore, have nothing against them personally. They all appear to be committed to their jobs and I am sure, like all of us, do the best they can. My criticism is directed at them simply because they are the ones in the leadership positions of an organization that does not seem to be willing to consider, in any meaningful way, any opposing viewpoints or willing to re-visit policy decisions in light of changed circumstances.

      The perspective that open and honest dialouge in a public forum is not in the branch’s best interest, is best illustrated by the recent incident regarding AOC personnel compensation and a related newspapter article. The Council spent almost an hour discussing this issue. Most of the discussion focused on how unfair the article was to AOC leadership. When Judge Vicencia suggested that the JC might want to at least look at changing its policies regarding executive compensation, his suggestion was met with an improptu resolution reflecting JC support of the compensation decisions.

      I found this incident incredible on a number of levels. First, it was a newspater article. The judicial branch has a $3.0+ billion budget. Does the JC really want to start including on its agenda a discussion of all media coverage to determine whether it fairly depicted managment’s actions?

      Secondly, the JC adopted a resolution approving management’s compensation decisions relying primarily on the facts stated in the article it found to be unfair and misleading. Did any of the JC members approving the resolution have any additional information before them other than the article and Mr. Vickery’s memo, before approving the resolution. Did they review the RAD’s performance evaluations used to justify the 10% pay increase? Did they have any information to support Mr. Vickery’s justification for the pay increases – employee retention? Did they know how many of the trial court employees who received pay increases did so because they were contractuallly entitled to receive the increase?

      Most striking was Justice Huffman’s memo sent to all judges and CEO’s further explaining the JC’s response. If a newpaper article and a suggestion by the president of the CJA, forces the AOC/JC in a position where they feel that they have to go to such lengths to defend themselves, it is difficult not to doubt Mr. Overholt’s recent comments regarding AOC transparency.

      It should be noted that while the overall increase in the baseline budgets of trial courts increased 15% over a three-year period, not all courts received the entire 15%, some of this funding went to underfunded courts, a portion to security increases, mandatory retirement increases and court appointed counsel. The amount of discretionary funding received by the courts was less than 15% over this period.

      More importantly, this was money allocated by the legislature for trial court funding. While the AOC successfully lobbied for SAL funding, this funding did not come from the AOC. It came from a state appropriation. The AOC did not give the trial courts anything.

    • justinianscode

      Holmes:

      Others here have fairly comprehensively answered your question about what planet they live on. I want to respond in depth just one of your assertions.

      You list judicial education requirements among the “progressive” measures taken by the Chief Justice. It is interesting that you list this as one of the Chief’s accomplishments since he has insisted that the idea did not originate with him but with the Center for Judicial Education and Research (CJER).

      I remember well the letter that the CJER chair sent to the Chief outlining the supposed need for mandatory judicial education. Even then branch funds were tight, and many questioned why we were going to create a new mandate when there were still underfunded courts who needed money just for day to day operations.

      When the CJER chair was asked why he sent the letter and what problem had been identified that this expenditure of money would solve, he said they had not identified any problems. Rather, he revealed that the idea for mandatory judicial education came from staff. Soon after that, it became known that Mr. Vickrey had been talking about mandatory judicial education since his arrival at the AOC. This proposal was in furtherance of that desire, apparently, since according to the judge chairing CJER it certainly did not originate with the judges.

      No one ever set forth any study or other data to support the need for mandating continuing judicial education, and there is nothing progressive about creating a new government mandate when there is no identified problem to fix. That’s just growing government for the sake of growing government. Now judges have to keep track of their classes, report that list, someone at CJER has to file all that information, and for what? No one has ever suggested that judges are better educated now than they were prior to the judicial education rule going into effect, and for anyone who cares to attempt that assertion I would love to see data that backs it up.

      Don’t get me wrong. Continuing judicial education is a very good thing. In fact, it is so good that California’s judges themselves are the ones who came up with the idea when the California Judges Association started the education ball rolling decades ago. But not one judge in the state has ever been shown to need a Rule of Court to tell him or her that keeping up on the latest developments in the law helps them do a better job.

      What a shameful waste of money, staff and judicial resources. Progressive my foot.

      • Poor Holmes, thinking anyone here would actually listen to any suggestion that maybe the AOC isn’t the horrible boogeyman that everyone likes to make it out to be. Haven’t you figured it out yet? This site is the redstate.com of judicial branch “reporting.” Dissenting views need not bother, as no one who posts here anymore is interested in the full and actual truth. (Example — did the AOC Watcher say a peep about how AOC Audit helped Fresno Superior Court figure out that its sheriff was bilking it to the tune of $1M? Nope, because, one must assume, that would not fit the “brand” of this site, namely that the AOC does only evil. EVIL! Mwah-hah-hah!)

    • First, Holmes, thank you for posting. Open discussions are important, although relying on accurate facts, and not merely selective data that is twisted to suit one’s needs, is equally important if one truly wishes to support their position.

      I think the previous responses to your post comprehensively outline the state of affairs in a manner that more accurately represents the planet of reality.

      I do not join the voices of dissent by choice. It is an unwanted condition thrust upon me because I refuse to compromise my principles. I refuse to “go along, to get along” in the face of wrongdoing and injustice. There is no shame in that, Holmes!

      Oh yes, and I thought my fellow AOCW bloggers would be interested in knowing that, according to Alexa statistics, the percentage of global internet users who visiting this blog seem to be up 30% in the last month over the month previous to that!

  5. Obi-Wan Kenobi

    The only thing I buy regarding what you’re trying to sell Holmes is that the staff in the courts and the AOC are unified in their desire to improve the court system in California, with the operative word there being “staff”.

    I’m an AOC employee and have no turf to protect. I see what’s broken and how it got that way and believe that in fixing what is broken we can all better serve the courts for the benefit of all Californians.

    Notably absent from your spin are the years 2008 and 2009 which concern all staff of the Judicial Branch and just happened to be the years when cuts were handed down to the trial courts.

    AOC management can be less concerned because we all know the new year will likely bring to them another 11% (average) raise while the rest of us that do the work continue to serve with a 5% pay cut. Fortunately for us all we also believe there will be quite a few of these positions opening up when federal indictments are handed down.

    When I hear Judge McCoy say he will have to close the glendale courthouse to save money and I then hear that OCCM is going to build a new glendale courthouse, a disconnect between fiscal reality and doing the right thing by the people of the state of California comes to mind. It tells me we will be building a courthouse that the courts cannot afford to man.

    When I hear that we’re spending nearly as much on a case management system that Microsoft spent developing their latest operating system, fiscal irresponsibility comes to mind.

    When I hear the Chief Justice and his cronies that he appointed wish to shut down the courts one day a month “to send a message to Sacramento” its my sincere hope that Sacramento sends a message back in the next legislative session splitting 1407 funds to ensure that local trial court operations take precedence over building empty courthouses.

    When I hear that 4 whistleblowers have come forward and 3 of those have been fired over the past few years and the last one was essentially demoted, that tells me that a corrupt organization that is trying to cover their tracks is at work.

    It also tells me that there needs to be a trial court bill of rights and that an Office of the State Trial Courts needs to be created and carved out of the AOC’s budget and that the whistleblowing function needs to be moved out of the AOC and to the Office of the State Trial Courts so that concerned people in the branch have effective checks and balances in place.

    When I hear that the AOC has spent over a million dollars of public money defending themselves against ONE whistleblower lawsuit that is currently in the federal courts across the street in San Francisco just so the wrongdoers names don’t go public (yes, that would refer to you Mr. Fuentes, SofaMan, Mr. Bill, Mr. Ron-O and Mr. George) then its my hope that the State Legislature specifically prohibits the funding of the defense of that lawsuit via legislation and makes the wrongdoers dig deep into their own pockets to fund it.

    When I hear that the AOC has been unlawfully steering over a hundred and fifty million dollars and as much as two hundred and fifty million dollars to unlicensed “service providers” that grossly overcharge for their services and continues to “stay the course” and keeps on conducting this behavior after filing suit against the entities, that spells out rampant, unchecked corruption not only to me but likely to every judge and justice throughout the state that calls for federal intervention in the form of the FBI or a federal grand jury handing down indictments.

    When I hear that the good ship CCMS is a no-bid contract that stands to cost 1.75 billion dollars when it *may* be completed 3 years from now and that the three year target is a perpetually moving date, that tells me gross mismanagement of public funds (at the very least) is at work.

    When I see the executive leadership of the AOC violating both public law and the public trust and that the Judicial Council themselves is complicit in these events, then its my hope to see them all indicted in the ultimate of house cleanings.

    I don’t believe that there are any need to sow divisions in the branch. Rather, there is a long standing division between the 14 appointed members of the Judicial Council, the Chief Justice and the AOC’s executive leadership and the rest of the branch’s 21,000 dedicated employees – including those employed by the AOC.

    There are three things that are required for corruption to run rampant and unchecked.

    1. You have to control the purse strings. The JC and the AOC control the purse strings.

    2. You have to be able to control the people. Sending steady messages out that whistleblowers will be demoted or terminated helps to control the people.

    3. You have to control the message. With AOC watcher, the AOC has all but lost control of the message and the house of cards is flying apart currently as if a tornado hit it.

    I see AOC watcher as being one of the ultimate public servants by breaking up one of those 3 elements and in my mind, AOC watcher deserves the highest decoration possible for public service.

    • I also believe AOC Watcher deserves proper recognition for service given to the public, regardless of what might be said to the contrary by those who don’t really seem to have the public interest as their top priority.

      I was reading an article written by Justice Jerry L. Roberts on how organized corruption starts in government. I found his concept quite interesting in the simplicity of exactly where and how these events happen. He states that the “good ‘ole boy system is mainly about stepping to into helping someone recover from making a mistake. What usually happens is the offender is given a break from the penalty of the offense in hopes that the lesson is learned and the offense will not be committed again. That is fine as long as no one gets hurt in the process.”

      He also suggests, and I wholeheartedly agree, that things go dreadfully wrong when a good ‘old boy helps someone and, in the process, hurts someone else. When that transpires political corruption begins with the crossing of the line from integrity into corruption and, when that line is crossed, the good ‘ole boy system becomes the bad ‘ole boy system.

  6. Throughout our recent history, there have examples of government agencies and even private industry setting sail to develop fantastic computer systems that would revolutionize their respective industries and make them the envy of the World. Look back to 1987 and the California DMV’s effort to develop their new system. Teaming with Tandem computers, DMV was to spend $27mil over 5 years for this management colossus. Result: $49mil wasted when the plug was pulled in 1990 after 6 computers were delivered that were slower than what they had. Washington State’s LAMP system was going to cost $16mil for a similar system. $40mil later the plug was pulled. Why? The promised technology wasn’t then available. Fox/Meyer Drug was at one time a large company. It was bankrupted by entering a venture with Andersen/SAP to develop a mega-computer system that was supposed to cost $35mil. After spending $80mil the bankrupted multi-billion dollar company had to be auctioned off.

    The dream of the Chief for this mega-system is just that, a dream. It is a boon for Deloitte Consulting… as long as it lasts. Other governmental agencies have seen the folly of their ways after spending under $50mil for systems that couldn’t work. The AOC wants to spend $2bil+++????

    Why not get a few volunteers from any of the top 10 computer science schools, Stanford, MIT, UC Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, etc., to examine the Deloitte efforts that always seem to be about 75% complete in the development stage and on the verge of moving to the implementation stage and see what is really going on.

    Even Charlie Brown figured out at some point that Lucy was always going to pull the ball away before he kicked it.

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      Better yet, why not make CCMS a class project of some of the brightest people out there in our universities?

      Cisco and Sun were both created as Stanford University Grad projects. Why not toss them a bone and 100 million dollar grant to deliver what Deloitte can’t?

  7. An agency that punishes or discards hard-working employees for pointing out waste and operational improprieties is an agency with big problems, and those “big problems” generally occupy the agency’s Executive-level Suites.

    As for the “yawning hole in the state budget” that Holmes references, who does s/he think has helped to create that chasm? During my tenure at the AOC, I have witnessed innumerable instances of waste, some of which continues to this day: sole source contracts forced through in spite of front-line staff objections; IT systems pursued at unconscionable public expense; JC meetings staged at fancy hotels, resorts, restaurants, and museums; contractors paid for services they weren’t even required to supply, etc.

    If one witnesses these kinds of activity year in and year out, with management behaving as if public funds are somehow their rightful due and “accountability” nothing more than a PR catch phrase, then a little “sound and fury” seems a perfectly reasonable reaction. The AOCW and its bloggers are not responsible for sowing divisions within the branch; that dishonor must be bestowed elsewhere.

  8. Claire Vo yant

    I am so happy to see that the AOC has sent some winged monkeys out to defend the evil Laura and all that she represents and guards. Of course the AOC has done some wonderful things. It’s the holidays and we all love each other (within limits). But last time I checked, RAD salary increases were not tied to SAL. Or is that part of yet another illegal contract that was signed and developed by the AOC? Send the wizard home. There’s no place like home, even the poor and ruined dustbowl of Kansas.

  9. I am so happy to see that the AOC has sent some winged monkeys out to defend the evil Laura and all that she represents and guards. Of course the AOC has done some wonderful things. It’s the holidays and we all love each other (within limits). But last time I checked, RAD salary increases were not tied to SAL. Or is that part of yet another illegal contract that was signed and developed by the AOC? Send the wizard home. There’s no place like home, even the poor and ruined dustbowl of Kansas.

    • Hey Claire,

      Someone asked (although I don’t think anyone ever answered): How many unionized court employees got COLAs this year, despite the budget situation? Just curious. (And you’re right about the RADs, of course, although don’t they represent something like less than 1% of all AOC employees?) How many sheriffs demanded that courts pay MORE for security this year? Are the RADs and their raises REALLY the problem? Seems like there may be a lot more things out there contributing to the courts and their woes than 3 people who got raises. (And before you call me a flying monkey or a TIE fighter or whatever silly name you pick, let me say that yes, I number CCMS among those major problems contributing to everyones’ woes.)

      Although while we’re on it, don’t your metaphors and name calling make you feel a little silly? Do you think that sort of thing impresses the legislature? The feds? Anyone?

      • I did not realize that we were not addressing the Legislature and the federal government here. I will choose my words much more carefully from here on out. However, if those bodies are finally interested and paying close attention to the AOC, then my work is done.

      • Obi-Wan Kenobi

        Judge Dredd: Who cares? Those were union contractual obligations negotiated in good faith. The RADS and those in management that got those raises at the expense of a dedicated rank and file AOC’ers like myself who believed (at one time-but not anymore) that they were doing their part to prevent cuts from going down stream to the trial courts were sold a bill of goods.

        Frankly, I want my money back and believe that Sheila Calabro (or any one of the other 80 senior management team that got these raises based on my good will) should cut me a check.

      • Obi-Wan Kenobi

        I wasn’t very clear. Many AOC’ers participated in a voluntary furlough program while those in management got fat raises. I don’t really want my money back as much as I want to see those people give that money back to the state.

        Lastly, I’m not a fan of unions. However, I recognize that they have helped shaped America for the better in so many ways and in many cases, continue to do so. But when one negotiates in good faith, then one should live up to their end of the bargain.

      • justinianscode

        Judge_Dredd:

        First off, interesting that you chose as your name a character best known for using the phrase “I am the law!”. I’ve noticed that attitude in many decisions made by AOC and Judicial Council leadership over the years.

        Second, a prevailing theme on this blog is support and appreciation for the hard work of AOC employees. That work includes the items you mention, such as security cost audits.

        But as soon as AOC leadership convinced the Judicial Council to take millions of dollars from the Trial Court Trust Fund (a TRUST fund for crying out loud!) and spend it on the CCMS boondoggle, the leadership lost its last shred of credibility. They may think it was the right move, but they are wrong.

        The core function of the Judicial Branch – every single elected official who make up that branch and every single staff member hired to support those elected officials – is to keep the courts open for business. It really is as simple as that.

  10. The RAD’s are symbolic of systemic problems. Yes, they are just three fun lovin’ and high kickin’ gals, but they also are the highest level employees under the Director and Chief Deputy Director. And when you give large raises to those at the top only, when the courts they are supposed to be helping have been closing, you appear to look like a greedy corporation that rewards its board of directors — not a public entity that is committed to justice and full access to the courts.

    • John Henry — How about all those judges who fought tooth and nail (on the public’s dime) to keep their illegal county-provided benefits? They’re higher paid than the RADs, aren’t they? Doesn’t that make them look, you know, a little greedy?

      A little non-hypocrisy goes a long way, folks.

      • Obi-Wan Kenobi

        Its funny you should mention that Judge_Dredd since it was the Supreme Court that made the decision not to hear sturgeon v los angeles county and they it was the AOC themselves that sponsored SBx211 that granted these “two masters” payments that were illegal up until the law was passed.

  11. William Alexander

    It is important that all those choosing to post here remember what it is that makes this forum important: the free exchange of ideas. Should folks like Holmes and Judge_Dredd wish to express their feelings and beliefs supporting the status quo, so be it.

    This is an open site allowing people to express their personal opinions, something which is not allowed of members on the Judicial Council, judges and AOC employees. If an open, honest and frank exchange of ideas was permitted by the powers at be, this site would be unnecessary.

    Name calling or attempts to place a brand those who author comments here is unproductive. It is interesting that the Chief consistently has taken the position that anyone who disagrees, rather anyone who even raises a question regarding any of his decision making, are labeled as ignorant, ill-informed opponents of his efforts to enhance the public’s access to justice and our courts.

    Working in a court that has for well over thirty years, (the time limit of my personal knowledge) developed and maintained programs that have fostered and promoted access to justice, I find it laughable to hear from Ronald George that we weren’t even a real branch of government until he arrived on the scene as Chief Justice in 1996. Malcolm Lucas was a great Chief Justice and I don’t recall him ever getting in the way of people who wished to voice constructive suggestions or even legitimate criticisms.

    I’m sure there are good people working at the AOC who do their best. Trouble is, where the rubber meets the road, the trial courts, most of what I see are lots of unnecessary memos being generated, forms that are “modified” every six months for no useful reason other than to justify the existence of those modifying the forms, and layers of bureaucracy to go through any time you need to get an answer to a simple question.

    Seems like it takes a committee to decide how to change light bulb or a commission to study and publish pamphlets about what laws are no longer in effect, when I didn’t know or care about their existence throughout my entire career. If I wanted that level of bureaucracy I would have gone to work for the federal government and not the California Courts.

  12. Dissent should be welcome on this site and I think it is. It is just that you may have a hard time convincing those of us that have been initmately familiar with the AOC for years, that they are the best thing since sliced bread.

    The problem is that the AOC, JC and the Chief do not welcome dissent and the open dialog that it should create, not the poor lowly bloggers on this site. Sure we get silly and passionate. But the bottom line is that the majority of what you read on this site is the truth wheather you want to believe it or not.

    My guess is that you would not find any person blogging on this site being the type that would not be open to a reasonable exchange. However, what you are reading is not only the truth but out of frustration for the lack of open dialog. When the truth is gagged and dismissed out of hand, it leads to forums like this that allow people to speak freely, without fear for job loss or any other type of retalliation.

    • I’ve been intimately familiar with the AOC for years, too. The courts, longer. AOC certainly has its share of problems, no doubt. As has been debated ad nauseum, CCMS is probably the biggest. Are there others? Of course. Are they any better or worse than any other governmental agency in California or at the federal level? I’d argue a firm “no.”

      It just gets a little tiresome seeing everyone on this site make it out like the AOC 1) does nothing right, ever, 2) is the only part of the problem. Mendes? A COURT problem. Oh, and recall that he was then hired by ANOTHER court which, incidentally, didn’t (according to the word on the street) in any way vet him through the AOC. Hmm… maybe if that court (Kern? Was it you?) HAD reached out to the AOC a little, they wouldn’t have looked quite so foolish. But hey, the AOC does nothing right, squelches free discussion, kicks puppies, and eats babies, right?

      Oh, and Obi, I think the court employee COLA thing is hugely, colossally important. You all blame the AOC–and only the AOC–for the court closures. Get a grip. Courts’ finances are in the tank because of years of mismanagement by the counties, union greed (seriously, who pushes for a 5% COLA in the worst recession in CA history??? How do those people look themselves in the mirror in the morning?), and sheriffs’ unreasonable bargaining positions. Could AOC have pulled the plug on CCMS and kept the courts open for a year or two or three? Sure. Would that have been anything more than a temporary bandage for deeper, more systemic problems? Not bloody likely.

      All of you p-ssing and moaning need to take a real, long, hard look deep into the recesses of your souls and ask yourselves, truly, whether you are in any way a part of the branch’s problems. If the answer, before G-d and everyone, is “no,” then my hat’s off to you and I apologize for any offense. Otherwise, be a part of the solution, not the problem. (And no, I don’t think anonymous blogging, making fun of Sheila Calabro’s haircut, and calling Ron Overholt names really helps, any more than I think James Cameron cares when some 12-year-old on his basement computer claims that “Avatar wuz lamez.” It’s just the silly, 21st-century equivalent of the crazy guy on the box in the town square hoping that someone will listen to him.)

      • Sounds like you are negotiating, J.D. If that is a signal that the branch is indeed taking this blog very seriously, then I’ll match you civility for adequate whistle-blower protection for AOC employees. Do you have a name, phone number or card where we can reach you? You yourself are demonstrating the power and draw of blogs, so thank you for contributing.

  13. Thank you brother Flea. AOC-W would have died out months ago if there was not an incredible power in the written word — for writers, editors, ad and web men and women, judges and clerks across the land — particularly, those who cannot speak freely and point out problems where they work.

    God bless.

    • Which brings me to another point. I assume that all of you are going to go to the January Judicial Council meeting and speak up, right? Make your voices heard and all that? Make a record? Go on record?

      What, you’re NOT? Why not? Oh, you’re afraid for your jobs?

      Let me tell you something, folks — there’s been a lot of purple prose on this site about the brave men and women back in 1775 and 1776 and all that. And you know what? Those people were willing to DIE for what they believed in. Here, you all love to rant and rave from your armchairs, but when it comes down to it — when you think your jobs might be on the line — you’re scared. You do nothing. Makes one question the strength of your convictions, to be honest. It’s easy to be an anonymous complainer (just ask me!), but it takes stones to get up and say something, even knowing you might get in trouble (which you almost certainly WON’T, but hey, drama sells).

      Also, if you’re all such valuable branch employees, I’m sure you won’t have any trouble finding another job, so what have you got to lose? Looking forward to seeing you all at the January meeting!

      • Apparently you’ve not been keeping up on current events there Judge.

        When I look upon my peers, I came to the realization that unlike many others, I had the unique ability, the intestinal fortitude, unusual resources and uncommon means to draw upon and take that risk and blow the whistle.

        And how was the news that the AOC stood to gain over 1500 years (and climbing) of my salary by me crying foul received?

        By having my network permissions revoked so that others could bare witness to the fact that there are real repurcussions for blowing the whistle in the AOC.

        That message MUST be sent to other employees to ensure their silence.

        And others wish to call it a ‘personnel matter’

        uh-huh, right.

      • I thought that’s what the AOC stood for (Anonymous Outstanding Complaining). I look forward to seeing YOU at the January meeting, Judge Dredd. You sound afraid and docile (and nothing like a judge), but I like meeting opposites — they attract!

      • I am glad anyone who wants to join the discussion is doing so, as I learn much whether from someone posting by his or her true name or anonymously (like Judge Dredd and others). Besides, anonymity has an honored history in America.

        Benjamin Franklin wrote whimsically under the pseudonym Poor Richard, a thinly veiled vehicle for satire and commentary. Later, regarding a more serious subject, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison wrote the Federalist Papers under the pseudonym Publius; they closely guarded their identities despite much speculation, as they worked for passage of our Constitution.

        With a history like that, I don’t have much problem with anonymous postings on a blog whenever those postings are sincere and constructive (even if I disagree with the position of the poster). More communication is almost always better than less.

        Tim Fall
        Judge, Yolo Superior Court

        P.S. Like many here, I would rather read criticisms of ideas and actions than of people and personalities. It is a fine line sometimes but one that is worth adhering to, in my opinion.

  14. PS may I add that in the Wizard of Oz, winged monkeys were not bad. They were just slaves of the powers at hand and if you will recall when the witch was melted, the imperial guard and the winged monkeys all were glad. Hail Dorothy and we all found out that the wizard was indeed a sham hiding behind the velvet curtain, using intimidation, trickery, and a big facade to cow his subjects.

  15. oh vay oh vay Judge Dredd. I have looked into the windows of my soul for so long. Searching and wondering, like you said, if I was the real problem.

    My father was a sucessful public servant for 35 years, with only a bit of college education, but he had vast amounts of intuitive management style. He always told me to question why we are doing things we are doing if it does appear to best serve the public. Don’t be afraid to question the “status quo” because your most important job is to serve the public that pays your salary. Yet, he also knew that you don’t want to burn bridges, understood politically realities, and while questioning the status quo to do so diplomatically and try to reach concensus. And he also knew how important it was to have a great job with benefits.

    However, the bottom line Judge, is that he taught me not to let malfesence, politics, wrong, or just plain we have always done it this way win. When you go into public service it is a higher calling. It is not about “boogey men” it is about calling a spade a spade. I would take no joy in participating in what you think is a Jerry Springer type bash all.

    And that is why I entered public service and no more noble than the branch of justice. People will laugh and call me a fool, but my epitath will read “at least I tried to make a difference.”

  16. And now, while I am hogging this site, it makes me really mad, Judge that you would DARE to think that none of us have spoken out at meeting or in other forums. We have and done so many times. Our comments were just met with blank stares, laughter or that AOC staff will get back to us on that issue. And many have done so BEHIND closed doors as well in order not to be disprutive of branch meetings. Shame, shame on you for thinking we are all just chicken sh*ts and only thinking of our jobs!

    So tell me this sir, as you throw down the gauntlet, we should all have individually fallen on our swords to face this menace? Ha! what a waste of valuable lives. Even a revolutionary general in the 1700’s (unless you were an elite British general with a bunch of Irish conscripts) would not have done so for the cause. It is only in numbers can the fight the be winable. And you forget sir, that the American revolutionary soldiers were the first to stop the foolish practice of the formation of lines fighting at gunpoint and sucessfully used the power of gurellia tactics.

    You underestimate sir, the loyalty and dedication and sacrafice that those that care about the branch are willing to and have made on behalf of the branch.

  17. PS and I am sorry for all of these entries, but heck,
    get on the JC January agenda, you have to be kidding me! We would have to have applied for that at least a year ago. Not to mention, do you think the chair of E&P, J Huffman would have allowed it on the agenda? I think not! Ok, I am quiet now.

  18. It is important that all those choosing to post here remember what it is that makes this forum important: the free exchange of ideas. Should folks like Holmes and Judge_Dredd wish to express their feelings and beliefs supporting the status quo, so be it.

    This is an open site allowing people to express their personal opinions, something which is not allowed of members on the Judicial Council, judges and AOC employees. If an open, honest and frank exchange of ideas was permitted by the powers at be, this site would be unnecessary.

    Name calling or attempts to place a brand those who author comments here is unproductive. It is interesting that the Chief consistently has taken the position that anyone who disagrees, rather anyone who even raises a question regarding any of his decision making, are labeled as ignorant, ill-informed opponents of his efforts to enhance the public’s access to justice and our courts.

    Working in a court that has for well over thirty years, (the time limit of my personal knowledge) developed and maintained programs that have fostered and promoted access to justice, I find it laughable to hear from Ronald George that we weren’t even a real branch of government until he arrived on the scene as Chief Justice in 1996. Malcolm Lucas was a great Chief Justice and I don’t recall him ever getting in the way of people who wished to voice constructive suggestions or even legitimate criticisms.

    I’m sure there are good people working at the AOC who do their best. Trouble is, where the rubber meets the road, the trial courts, most of what I see are lots of unnecessary memos being generated, forms that are “modified” every six months for no useful reason other than to justify the existence of those modifying the forms, and layers of bureaucracy to go through any time you need to get an answer to a simple question.

    Seems like it takes a committee to decide how to change light bulb or a commission to study and publish pamphlets about what laws are no longer in effect, when I didn’t know or care about their existence throughout my entire career. If I wanted that level of bureaucracy I would have gone to work for the federal government and not the California Courts.

  19. There is such power in this blog because there is so much need for free dialogue to function in a modern branch of government. If I did not believe that, then I would not bother to post here. Anyone who posts here cared enough to do so, and that is why the blog has so much power. If everyone felt heard, everyone would play by the rules and feel like decisions were fair. It’s why the branch was very brave to embark on the road towards procedural fairness, and why, at the same time, it is so frightening to actually have to listen.

  20. Onlooker- Thanks for hitting the nail on the head on many levels. All of us here are seeking to do the best for the citizens of California. AOC watcher deserves to be commended for facilitating on open and frank discussion about issues like closing courts, spending over a billion dollars on a computer system and seeking to provide protection to the AOC employees who speak up to offer dissenting views. We had none of these problems when we were reportedly in the CJ’s words a “judicial branch in name only.”The bottom line is that power in our branch has been concentrated in the CJ through his position as head of the JC and AOC. Back when trial court funding was established no one intended for that to happen. The answer remains in creating a democratic Judicial Council- so diverse policy positions and views can be discussed and respected not disregarded and cast off as shrill, uniformed and uninterested in providing access to the courts as the CJ claims.

  21. I’ve read this blog with great interest and have both agreed and disagreed with many things said here. But I think discourse and honest debate are good things. I also know that many in the judiciary are afraid to speak up because of retribution and that is a real fear. So this blog serves as a good outlet for people to say things they can’t freely say. And we are all free to agree or disagree with those comments. We are also free to make points of clarification. Hence my post tonight.A few of you have mentioned that court employeees received raises this year and someone made a crazy and unfounded allegation that some union even demanded a 5 percent increase in this year. Welll, that is a myth created by a frustrated individual. to my knowledge there were no union contracts renegotiated this year that gave anyone a new salary increase. To my knowledge, there were many contracts re-opened to address the shortfalls in many trial courts. shortfalls not created by fiscal mismanagement or greedy union employees – as someone asserted above. But shortfalls, created by various factors – primarily state budget cuts, directives requiring courts to implement Judicial Council priorities from funds that may have otherwise been used for a local court’s own priorities and increased costs of doing business – all sorts of increased costs of doing business – yes paying employees, increased health insurance premiums, increased security costs, costs associated with CCMS, etc . All legitimate costs of doing business. But when the money falls short there’s often really one big place to go in a budget for savings and that is in personnel costs because it happens to be the biggest portion of any local or state agency budget. So again, many union contracts were re-opened to deal with those issues. In many cases, the employees gave back in the forms of additional furlough days, reduced hours, voluntary furlough days, salary increase give-backs, picking up bigger portions of healthcare costs, lay-offs, etc. Yes, it is true that some courts were in the fortunate situation this year of being able to meet their contractual obligations to their employees. Those contracts were negotiated in good faith and those negotiations likely happened two years ago when the fiscal environment was much different and when no one envisioned how bad the state’s fiscal condition would become. In those very few courts where the employees did get raises some were just on paper and not real. Meaning, the contract may have said the employees were due a 3 percent raise and the court and their employees mutually agreed to honor that but then also agreed to at least one unpaid furlough day for a 5 percent cut. In addition, many courts have rotating furlough days for their employees. So the net effect is a salary cut for those employees but with an offset from the on paper raise – for example: 3 percent raise, 5 percent cut due to one day furlough = 2 percent pay cut. Now, that is if you’re on the luckier side. Many employees got the 5 percent cut due to the furlough day, picked up increased health care costs, and no raise at all – on paper or real. The really lucky but very few did get some prudent increase per a previously negotiated contract. BUT, that was just in a very few courts. And that happened to be in courts that have been historically VERY, VERY prudent and when in richer years the employees went without increases. Many were given one time bonuses that didn’t roll into their base salaries or got nothing at all. So to allege or try to assert that court employees got all these raises this year is just plain wrong. And the answer is complicated because every court and their employees did something different to address their own fiscal situation. It’s a matter of local priorities and local control. Now, on the matter of whether you like unions or not, well you might not like them but there is one group of employees in the judiciary who can speak up freely and they are trial court employees. They do speak up freely and defend the system of local control for local courts. They can do this why? Because of unions and the rights and protections won for those employees by unions, including whistleblower protections, just cause and merit employment just to name a few. This upcoming year, like many years in the past those trial court employees are going to go to the Legislature and fight every single battle that has been talked about on this blog. CCMS, funding, public records, local control, no bid contracts, accountability, etc. You may not know it, but these aren’t new fights to trial court employees. They’ve been mixed up in those fights for years. And this year, they’ll add whisletblower protections for AOC employees to that list. Not because it benefits local employees but because it’s the right thing to do. And they’ve already asked their unions to fight that fight and have already engaged with the Legislature on that matter. So you may not like unions, but the unions are the ones who will wage the war on behalf of all these things and use their political strength to get it done. And ps – the AOC didn’t get the courts the SAL money – the Democratic majority Legislature provided it largely at the behest of unions so there would be predictable, discretionary money year to year in the trial court budgets for employee compensation and other matters – read the opening sections of the statute and you’ll figure out who actually convinced the Legislature to give the courts any discretionary money for their costs of doing business needs. I know a lot of AOC employees don’t like unions, it’s been made clear in the past in the way many AOC employees have chosen to conduct business with the unions. But before you feel like making another ‘let’s kick the unions in the teeth’ comment think for a minute what a union is – it’s a group of employees who’ve come together for collective strength. And the next time a union employee from a trial court or their representatives calls you for assistance please try to be a little nicer to them because they’re employees and people just like you. And those trial court employees are going to carry a lot of political water to get AOC employees those whistleblower protections because the AOC leadership and JC are going to go the wall fighting it in the Legislature and at the end of the day when cynical deals get cut the unions are going to be the only ones with enough political strength to push back against the AOC and JC – why do you think they hate the unions so much and direct AOC staff to deal with unions in the most combative ways and call their representatives liars and derogatory names? So remember, politics often makes strange bedfellows. And those strange bedfellows – local courts, their unionized employees, judges and AOC employees can make one extremely powerful coalition with each group bringing a special strength whether it’s sheer political power, knowledge, credibility or endless tenacity – combined it can be the mega-tsunami that the AOC leadership and JC can’t stop. So I suggest that all the above named groups get together, put preconceived ideas and political ideologies aside and find away to get in contact with each other, build a coalition and go win some real change.

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      AOC employees realize that they will rely on the unions and other court officials outside of the AOC to bring about legislative change and I think that this time around, AOC employees want to ride the wave of that tsunami that brings about these changes.

    • judicial observer

      Wise Employee,

      Thank you for a fine analysis pointing to the dishonesty and irrationality of the leadership of the Judicial Council and the AOC when they defend their giving salary increases by stating “but some courts also gave their union employees raises.” They are truly making an apples vs. oranges argument. They show their misunderstanding of the bargaining, meet and confer and reopening process all the courts have had with their represented employees over the past year because of the changed economic climate in the state.

      For the union employees and most of the unrepresented employees in everyone of the 58 trial courts, large and small, this fiscal crisis has been endured by all, and to my knowledge none have received the beneficial treatment we now know was given to some in the AOC. After asking for a return of salary from judges and the forced closure of courts one day a month and unpaid (and unbanked) furlough days, the actions of the AOC are another slap in the face to all who once had some faith that they really wanted to assist the courts. The defense of such action by the Judicial Council members is a reprehensible and insulting act to their co-workers in their own courts.

  22. Obi-Wan Kenobi

    Click Here to take the Alliance of AOC Employees Transparency and Accountability survey

    And just in case the code above doesn’t work…. here it is again for copy and paste into a browser.

    http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/?p=WEB22A2UNBJV4J

    This survey is anonymous and can only be taken once per computer as not to pad the results.

    On January 15th, the results of this survey will close and shared with those mentioned in the survey. Two weeks later, the survey results will be published either on AOC watcher or on a custom web page developed for this purpose.

    Be as honest as possible.

    http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/?p=WEB22A2UNBJV4J

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      TWO HOURS into the survey:

      Note: This survey is open to anyone – not just AOC employees. If you’re not an AOC employee simply skip the AOC employee specific survey questions (there are only a few)

      Two hours into the 18 day long survey and 84% of respondents indicate that that the Judicial Council’s 14 appointed members should be elected from standing members of the Judiciary as opposed to appointed by the Chief Justice.

      We are getting good results and a good response.

      • Obi-Wan Kenobi

        (Yes I did take statistics. I never intended for the survey to reflect a neutral point of view because the JC/AOC doesn’t ever express a neutral point of view. If they did, I won’t be doing this survey….)

      • Obi-Wan Kenobi

        Question 15: Should those individuals who got pay raises while the AOC was asking people to take voluntary furloughs give back their salary increases?

        100% of respondents indicate those that got the raises should give them back.

      • Obi-Wan Kenobi

        Six hours into the survey and question 15 remains unchanged.

      • Obi-Wan Kenobi

        8 hours into the survey and finally question # 15 has changed.

        One person believes these people who got pay raises should keep them.

        Now for the rest of the survey, wrongdoers in the AOC is becoming a consensus.

        8 hours into the survey, support for Mr. Vickery’s continued leadership stands at 13%.

        Be sure to send a link to the survey around to everyone you know. I’m sure we can have 500 responses by days end if you do.

        Just be sure to add http and // and www. to zoomerang.com/Survey/?p=WEB22A2UNBJV4J

  23. Judge Dred asks if AOC employees will show up to voice their concerns at the January JC meeting. Maybe I missed it, but I cannot recall a single instance during my twelve plus years when AOC employees have ever been permitted to do anything like that at a council business meeting. If I’m wrong, someone please correct me, but as others have informed us, Justice Huffman and the Executive and Planning Committee set the JC business meeting agenda, and that agenda is generally limited to matters that concern the larger branch, not AOC internal operations, which are the Administrative Director’s territory.

    I can’t help wondering if Judge Dred is part of AOC management. If that is the case, it is probably easier to scold the rest of us for fearing job loss. If the Judge enjoys job security, a salary at or approaching, six figures, then it must be a lot easier to chastise others less fortunate for not risking it all in an economy that currently posts a 10.5% unemployment rate. Judge Dred doesn’t take into consideration that other AOC employees who did speak up have paid a price, including demotion, financial hardship and, in at least one instance, as a blogger posted here last week, home foreclosure.

    Judge Dred is right about a few things, including the fact that it wasn’t necessary to go poking fun at Shiela Calabro’s and Justice Huffman’s hairdos.

    • justinianscode

      joshmadisonn, I can’t even remember a time when a judge – let alone a staff member – was ever allowed to address the Judicial Council in order to express criticism of its actions, decisions or governance.

      More than one judge has been warned by fellow judges not to express criticism publicly for fear of push-back from the Judicial Council or AOC leadership in the form of adverse funding decisions. The purse strings are firmly in the grip of the Chief Justice, Mr. Vickrey, the Judicial Council and AOC management.

      • Obi-Wan Kenobi

        Back to those three elements that must exist for corruption to flourish:

        1. You must control the purse strings.
        2. You must control the people
        3. You must control the information (or message)

        AOC does this all incredibly well.

      • Patience is a virtue. The current administrative system took ten years to put together, and it will not take that long to build a better one for the next ten years. The Achilles’ heel of the AOC is that they never thought to come up with a plan B, let alone a plan for the future.

        The future is here. Ron Overholt spoke the truth when he said that there is nothing wrong with this kind of forum.

        God bless.

      • Obi-Wan Kenobi

        With AOC Watcher, the third element of JC/AOC control is being torn away from them. They have lost the message and ability to control the information.

        Only by not acknowledging its existence, the voices and messages of dissent both within the ranks and through the trial courts, do they have any hope whatsoever of holding absolute unchecked power.

        Next in the world of social re-engineering is that they will begin to lose control of the people and you’re beginning to see movement on that front.

        As long as the media continues to pound away at the messages being sent them, as long as the legislative aides verify what is written in these pages, as long as the leadership of the trial courts (court execs, PJ’s, judges and unions) keep the fires burning, it is then and only then we as concerned employees of the Judicial Branch have any chance whatsoever to better serve the people of California.

        If anyone fails to do their part assuming someone else is doing it for them, they are sadly mistaken and the JC/AOC is currently banking on non-involvement as their only saving grace.

        Dissent doesn’t exist/Nobody is listening

        I find it amusing that AOC Watcher is the talk of management and workers across the AOC.

      • “Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” — Colin Powell

        A concept that falls on deaf ears at the AOC.

    • Thank you Wendy. I could not have sumaarized the situation any better. Here is a citation for you.

      “(h) The [E&P] committee recommends candidates to the Chief Justice for appointment to the Judicial Council and its advisory bodies.”

      2009 California Rules of Court
      Rule 10.11. Executive and Planning Committee
      (Subd (h) adopted effective August 14, 2009.)

      God bless.

      JH/__

  24. Obi-Wan Kenobi

    Please look up a few posts to find the Alliance of AOC Employees Transparency and Accountability Survey pusted under my name.

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      Oh and just so you know, the winged monkeys seem to be influencing the results disproportionately at this point.

  25. Judge_Dredd,

    I respect you posting here, but I can’t say I agree with your opinions, or some of the “facts” that you are tossing out. I don’t recall anyone on this blog taking the position that the AOC “does nothing right” and, in fact, have seen compliments and support regarding various AOC services and employees.

    When one looks for possible solutions, it is required to first look at where the problem originates. Wouldn’t it be reasonable to look at those who hold the power and authority to make decisions? And when those decisions result in negative outcome…well, excuse me, but that’s pretty much proof of the pudding as to who is to blame for the resulting outcome. (Can’t believe I actually had to point that out!) What adds salt to the wound is the refusal to accept responsibility and , instead, just continue the course as if nothing is wrong.

    Your suggestion that the “courts’ finances are in the tank because of years of mismanagement by the counties” makes me shake my head in disbelief that someone could actually believe this! The local courts operated for years without closing, even in the Great Depression, before the AOC got involved and took control!

    I feel the frustration in your words and suggest that it can be a rather scary experience for a person to be paralyzed on a track when a train full of truth is barreling down towards them.

    Again, I respect you posting an opposing viewpoint.

  26. OH MY….you must see this!

    The CCMS supporters are not satisfied with milking merely the California state taxpayers or local courts…so they have taken their campaign nationwide to grab federal funds!!

    Truly u-n-b-e-l-i-e-v-a-b-l-e!!

    I’ll give the link so you can verify that my facts are, indeed, facts (page 6 under Chief Justice’s Report, if you are checking on me!)…but will also block & copy the applicable exerpt from the Judicial Council Meeting minutes from August 14, 2009 for your reading convenience:

    “Advocating for federal economic stimulus funding for the California Court Case
    Management System (CCMS), the Chief Justice went to Washington, D.C.,
    accompanied by Supreme Court Justice Ming W. Chin, Mr. William C. Vickrey, Mr.
    Ronald G. Overholt, Mr. Curtis L. Child, and Ms. Sheila Calabro. They met with
    representatives of the U.S. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security and
    legislative leaders, including Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Barbara Boxer, House
    Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and other Democratic and Republican members of Congress.
    A delegation from the Department of Homeland Security will visit the AOC Southern
    Regional Office for a briefing on CCMS during the first week of September.”

    http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/jc/documents/min081409.pdf

  27. Did they go as registered lobbyists? Fascinating.

    • I do not know the answer, John Henry, but it would be interesting to know if that was the case. Regardless, if the sole purpose of that trip was to “sell” the CCMS, I personally don’t believe it illustrates good use of tax dollars. Homeland Security doesn’t need to be concerned about our courthouse security if the courthouse doors are all closed!

      • Someone who knows more about lobbying laws and California judges can perhaps answer. The other fascinating element of this blog (to me) is that we are getting into constitutional issues, which may make it interesting for both branch employees and law students.

        I did find this government code section under the PRA, which I found interesting for another issue that has been discussed here.

        One-Year Ban: Gov. Code Section 87406 restricts former state officials, for one year after leaving state service, from being paid to communicate with their former agency in an attempt to influence agency decisions that involve the making of general rules (such as regulations or legislation), or to influence a permit, license, contract, or transaction involving property or goods.

        Research is so connected to the practice of law. Thank you Mermaid.

  28. On a different topic than any of the above:

    Since many of you seem quite conversant with the rules and policies of the Judicial Council and AOC, I wonder if anyone here knows the answer to this. (I have made a formal request for the information that will probably be answered shortly, but in the meantime, I’m curious).

    In June, 2008 a document was published titled “Judicial Council Governance Polices June 2008.” I believe this document now constitutes appendix D in the Title 10 Rules of Judicial Administration in the Cal. Rules of Court.

    Various AOC reports and Council meeting minutes indicate that the Judicial Council adopted this governance policy. However, I can find no mention in any Council meeting minutes that this occurred. So:

    1. Was this policy passed by the full Council? If so, at which meeting.

    2. Was this policy passed by the Executive and Planning committee only, as opposed to the full Council, and if so, at which meeting of E and P, and where are the minutes published?

    3. The policy led the Council to pass, at the 8/09 business meeting, a litany of rules apparently designed to carry the 6/08 policy into effect. For some reason, the rules (basically a rewrite of Title 10) were placed on the consent agenda (if I am reading the minutes of that meeting correctly), and thus there was little, if any, discussion at the meeting. Why was this done?

    Were the rules circulated for public comment or was that process bypassed? If bypassed, was it RUPRO that would decide this course of action?

    4. What problem was the 6/08 revision to policy seeking to solve?

    5. If the E and P committee passed the policy rather than the full Council, why this approach rather than having the full Council debate the matter? It seems like a rather substantive matter to entrust to a single Committee, if this occurred. (As I say, I have no way to tell at this point whether this is the case–the minutes of the E and P committee used to be posted on the SERRANUS website, but those minutes stopped in 2007)

    6. Who actually wrote the 6/08 policy and the 8/09 rules?

    All of this information is probably available at the Council website somewhere, but I can’t find it. Thanks to anyone who knows the answers.

    Chuck Horan

    • To those who responded to my information request, thank you. I will continue to research the issue, as it is quite interesting.
      Thanks,
      Chuck Horan

      • We know the policies weren’t yet finalized as of this 2/22/08 AOC Finance Division memo that makes reference to the governance policies that will be made available in late April or early May, 2008:

        Page 3, No. 6:

        “An additional 2 documents will be made available in late April or early May, 2008. They are: The Operational Plan for California’s Judicial Branch, 2008—2011 (due for adoption April 25) and Judicial Council Governance Policies (currently undergoing revision).”

        http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/reference/rfp/documents/confplansvcs-rfp-qa.doc

        I don’t see any minutes, agenda or indication that a June 2008 JC meeting was held at all, which would lead one to believe that some other committee was delegated authority to adopt the policies (there seems to be quite a bit of authority delegation going on based on all of the documents I’ve been reading). I was unable to locate any specific information on exactly when and how these policies were adopted. At this stage, who really knows…it might be another one of those retroactive events that seem to be common place within the upper judiciary these days? I’d also like to know where the E&P Committee minutes are posted. Judge Horan definitely asks some very important questions, and brings to light some interesting information!

      • Mermaid: Do you know if minutes were ever created for CCMS Oversight Committee meetings?

      • Claire, sorry, I haven’t run into any actual minutes from the CCMS Oversight Committee meetings (that I can specifically remember-wasn’t actually looking for that on my “mission assignment” though) but I do recall finding various reports (not sure if that is the correct term?) within reports.

        i.e. Bill Vickery’s 12/15/09 Report to the JC contains the following:

        “California Case Management System (CCMS)

        • Executive and Legislative Branch Briefings: As part of the effort to work more closely with the executive branch on the CCMS initiative and to ensure that all pertinent information is available to facilitate executive branch decisions on technology funding, State Chief Information Officer Teri Takai and her team and Assembly Member Audra Strickland will have separate meetings with Sheila Calabro and her team to be briefed in more detail on CCMS.

        • Federal Funding: Further to an earlier report on the latest round of meetings with congressional and federal agency representatives in the effort to secure funding for CCMS, an additional meeting is being sought with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.”

        Link given for verification purposes (Page 7 near the top):
        http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/jc/documents/reports/admindirrpt.pdf

        There seems to be quite a bit of info imbedded inside other info (if that makes sense?)….which did, ultimately lead me to some E&P Minutes, though!

    • Thank you Mermaid. I am curious if Judge Horan has received any response, help or guidance from the AOC, other than via this blog? There is someone there in San Francisco — I assume — who knows about the governance policies? I don’t believe they close up shop like Europeans.

      I found this interesting about V4, from that same December 2009 report:

      V4: Work continues on the Request for Proposal process and ongoing negotiations with Deloitte regarding the V4 deployment contract. The Product Acceptance Test and stress test environment build out was completed in November.
      o CCMS-V4 will be delivered in fall 2010 and deployed to three early adopter courts. Initial deployment discussions have begun with the Superior Courts of San Diego, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo.
      o The courts, AOC, and Deloitte Consulting continue the extensive testing effort of the CCMS-V4 product. An effort is under way to standardize codes and configuration and deployment discussions have begun with the three early adopter courts.

      It’s good to have timelines, and information. Thanks.

  29. Others in positions higher than me know the answers, Judge Horan. They are, however, extremely good questions.

    You have earned both trust and respect.

  30. Judge Horan, the 2008 Governance Policies were drafted under the oversight of Justice Richard D. Huffman, Chair of the Executive and Planning
    Committee. Others involved in their development include Ken Kann, Director of AOC-EOP, Nancy Spero, a Manager in AOC-EOP-Secretariat, as well as attorneys from AOC-Office of the General Counsel. I do not know how or when the policies were adopted, but the individuals listed above would know and can be reached by telephone at the AOC’s SF offices.

  31. PS Judge Horan. I also don’t know how or when the June 2008 governance policies were adopted. The Judicial Council does conduct a closed Planning Meeting. But I don’t know if the Chief Justice attended, or if any “official” business was conducted at that or another meeting related to adoption of these policies.

    It does appear unusual to me that the AOC governance policies do not have an indication when they were officially adopted by the Judicial Council. The wonderful editors in EGG are usually sticklers for these kinds of important details. Maybe, like Claire, my eyes are getting old, or they just need to update and correct the document.

    But if I was on the Council this moment, I would sure as heck want to know what the governance policies say, and whether the JC and/or the CJ adopted them. Viva la voz.

    • Older, yes. But I still can see, John! Thank you for jogging my memory though. Odd this, for a document apparently created in June 2008:

      “On an annual basis, the Chair of the Executive and Planning Committee discusses the
      governance policies and principles at a council meeting to orient new members and
      review council governance with continuing members. Every three years, the Judicial
      Council conducts a review of its governance policies and principles and determines
      whether any revisions are needed. The Executive and Planning Committee monitors the
      regular implementation of the governance policies and principles and makes
      recommendations to the council about governance policies and practices.
      In order to ensure that new council members have the knowledge and understanding
      needed to perform their duties effectively, they are oriented to the council’s governance
      policies and principles as well as the council’s history of policymaking on key topics,
      such as court facilities, fiscal appropriations, and infrastructure initiatives.”

      Such magical powers were bestowed! The policies magically appeared in June 2008 but but no one dare try to review them again until 2011? I hope it’s all a big typo too! See you around, my wise friend.

      • Obi-Wan Kenobi

        I hope things aren’t as they appear as a layperson might draw some conclusions there Claire Voyant.

        31 licensed contractors were selected to do facilities mods work. Yet two unlicensed contractors have been getting this work?

        Who sits on the facility mods working group?

        Any commonalities between this group and those that sit on E&P?

        Of interest: The AOC archives no longer include the shortlist of those selected to provide facilities management services nor the actual contract awards. They existed two weeks ago.

        Why might that be?

        http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/reference/rfp/gcfmti-rfp.htm

        http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/reference/rfp/documents/gcfmti-rfp-awardedfirms.pdf

      • Obi,

        I, too, noticed information missing from the AOC online archives that existed just a few weeks ago. The subject matter is what caused me to raise an eyebrow. Owning a printer and lots of ink proves to be a worthy investment.

  32. Judge Horan, I found a copy of the June 2008 Annual Planning Meeting agenda that was held at The Meritage Resort, Napa, CA, and the Governance Policies are not listed for discussion. It should be pointed out that the annual planning meeting is not a JC business meeting and thus, does not feature consent and action-item agendas. No formal JC vote on branch issues ever takes place at the annual planning meeting, which is really a glorified and much more elaborate “issues meeting” (in other words, guest speakers, lots of panel discussions, etc.,.).

    If the policies were formally adopted by the full council, the vote should be noted in the regular JC business meeting minutes. It might be possible that the Executive & Planning Committee adopted them in the council’s name. I’m pretty sure E & P has the authority to do that in some circumstances.

  33. Thank you oldtimer. It’s because they gave themselves that authority. There is nothing in the governance policies regarding terms, appointment to, or removal from internal committees.

  34. John Henry, I think you would have to go to the California Rules of Court to find information about internal committee and advisory committee terms, appointment and removal processes.

  35. And I think that’s the issue. Some of those rules were amended in 8/09 to help implement the governance policies. I will let others speak who are more knowledgeable. Thank you and god bless.

  36. Alliance of AOC Employees Transparency and Accountability Survey daily trends

    Our Survey Says: 24 hour survey results

    Question 4:

    Do you believe that the 14 appointed members of the Judicial Council should be elected from standing members the judiciary instead of appointed by the Chief Justice? 86% voted yes.

    Question 6.

    Do you believe that the whistleblowing function and investigations in the AOC is working as intended or that the whistleblowing function and investigations needs to be moved outside of the AOC?

    90% of respondents said: The whistleblowing function and investigating body needs to be moved outside of the AOC.

    Question 7:

    Do you believe that an independent forensic audit of all AOC records, purchasing and accounting practices needs to be conducted from a party outside of the AOC, such as the Bureau of State Audits or one of the big 4 accounting firms (excluding deloitte)?

    90% of survey respondents said YES

    Question 11

    Is Chief Justice George a credible person that should continue to lead California’s Judicial Branch?

    71% of respondents indicate NO

    Question 12

    Do you believe that Bill Vickery is a credible leader that should continue to lead the AOC?

    84% of respondents say NO
    (Mr. Bill is coming up in the world)

    Question 13

    Do you believe Ron Overholt is a credible leader that should continue to lead the AOC?

    71% of respondents say NO

    Please follow the link in my name and take the survey.

  37. My Google research on the Chief Justice’s “lobbying trip” to Washington, D.C. to advocate federal funding for the CCMS project has provided some interesting results (at least to me-hey, I’m easily entertained with information!) One search result lead me right back here (it’s a gravitational AOC-W pull, I tell ya!) where AOC Watcher had uploaded a document I had not previously seen until today.

    Here is an excerpt (complete document link given below so you know I’m not making this stuff up!):

    Questions and Answers
    California Court Case Management System
    (CCMS)
    August 13, 2009

    JUSTICE PARTNER INTEGRATION
    Which justice partners will benefit from CCMS?
    Discussions are taking place with federal agencies such as Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Department of Justice to determine how to integrate with their systems.

    (end of excerpt)

    CCMS integration with those federal agencies??? Please pinch me because I can’t believe I’m actually seeing that in black and white!! Isn’t that putting the cart before the horse? One would think that successful integration within the state would be first priority before contemplating any kind of integration outside the state. Or, was this done merely as a way to get more funding for a project that they feared would lose support from other funding sources? Wouldn’t their time and energy be better spent on other matters…like keeping courthouse doors open, and tending to matters of higher priority in their own backyard that seems to be full of sinkholes? What federal agency would desire to integrate with a faulty computer system? Yea, I know…I’m uninformed, but I *AM* inquisitive so I’m trying to change that!

    https://aocwatcher.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/ccmsqa1.pdf

    P.S. While I have no idea what this might be related to, I found it interesting that Deloitte LLP is one of the clients lobbying Homeland Security in 2009 for “Partnership Opportunities with Homeland Security.” (Probably unrelated but interesting website nonetheless?)

    http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/clientissues_spec.php?lname=Deloitte+LLP&year=2009&spec=Homeland+Security

  38. Here’s a scary thought. What if the local courts are forced into bankruptcy? Wouldn’t that be the perfect set up for a total and complete state take over? Yikes! There are those within the AOC who, based on posts I have seen here on this blog and other “rumors bouncing off the wall”, complain about the lack of budget management on a local court level and seem to somehow believe the monetary problems are the fault of the local courts. What if, in their usual self-appointed, power-hungry style, the AOC uses this route to attempt to gain total and complete control? Yea, it might seem like an “over the top” idea but you have to agree we have already witnessed many things that fit into that category, no?

    AOC Watcher has accurately described the Death Star for the AOC mentality seems to be “either you succumb or we will kill your planet.”

    • Dear AOCW,
      Can we change the picture of the old supreme court building to your pretty picture of the death star?

      It isn’t that I really believe it’s the death star because of all the great people that work there but the death star has a better neuroassociative response attached to it, causing AOC employees to question the authority of a failed leadership and those in the trial courts to wonder if their planet is next. 😉

    • Mermaid

      I think your theory is the driving force behind the “statewide systems at all costs” approach taken by the AOC from day one. With statewide financial, HR and case management systems in place, who needs local court administration or control. Once courts start spending through their reserves and need to go to the AOC for more money, the AOC will be perfectly positioned to go to legislature and lobby for a change in trial court funding. There can be no other reason for the decision to go forward with CCMS when neither the AOC or trial courts ever had enough money to pay for it, to begin to develop a HR system (Phoenix) that no court needs or wants, and implement a financial system that the AOC admits required additional resources at the local and state level to operate.

      Take a look at the proposed amendments to Govt. Code Section 77001 that were mysteriously submitted to the joint budget conference committee last year. If it weren’t for the CJA and its lobbyist crying foul, local control of trial courts would have been a thing of the past. Of course, the AOC first blamed the Dept. of Finance of proposing the amendments. When DOF pointed the finger back at the AOC, they said it was all a mistake.

      For those of you who think I am a conspiracy theorist; remember, just because you are not paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.

  39. Mermaid, your theory would not suprise me. With all of the cuts the courts are going to have to face coming up in the 10-11 fiscal year budget, based on dire state budget deficit projections (and no more money left for one time fixes), some courts are really going to be hurting. So it is entirely possible the AOC will take control of more courts based on lack of funding and no reserves or other places to cut in the budget.

    In regards to AOC staff complaining that local courts can’t manage their budgets properly, while it is true that some have had problems (and you have to look at each individual court for the true reasons why that occurred), for AOC staff to imply that that is the case in all courts is the highth of arrogance. But that type of arrogance comes from the top down. The AOC is not here to “serve” the trial courts but to create a “branch” to serve the lust for power of the CJ and Mr. Bill.

    What everyone is forgetting here was the AOC advised the trial courts when SAL was given to the branch, that they should use that shaky funding source for on going expenditures, not one time, in order to show the legislature that SAL funding should be a permanent fixture for the branch just like the Executive and Legislative. As a result, the trial courts negotiated long term contracts with employee unions and hired folks in taking the AOC’s recommendations.

    Also, we are forgetting the AOC imposed a maximum amount a court court could hold in reserves, or that money could be “swept” to the AOC coffers. As a result, some trial courts in a desire to use the money locally rather than going to the AOC, reduced their reserves accordingly. Well now with the budget crisis, some courts reserves do not even come close to being enough to fend off major budget cuts without huge cuts in staff, etc. and will find themselves in a defict situation where they must turn to the AOC for assistance. Sure there are the few courts out there that have what some would consider excessive reserves, but most do not.

    In remembering these things Mermaid, it makes your theory entirely possible.

  40. I read this blog out of curiosity and for amusement. But I totally agree with Judge Dredd and Holmes. I’ve said before that the “AOC is the Devil” attitude is irrational and juvenile. Makes the posters sound like folks with axes to grind or simply poor losers (“I don’t agree with a policy decision so I’m just going to whine and moan”). I agree the AOC is far from perfect, and there is plenty of room for healthy, reasoned debate. Lots of room for that. But when the starting point is “if AOC is for it, I’m against it,” that’s not really possible. Or conversely, the position that all AOC criticism is worthy, and all who speak out against it are martyrs, is ridiculous. I don’t personally know any of the three supposed “whistleblowers” that have been identified here. Maybe they raise valid issues, maybe they don’t. Very few if any here really know. But I do know that multiple individuals who have worked closely with one of the whistleblowers (individuals for whom I have the highest level of respect) told me (long before everything hit the fan) that the “whistleblower” is a whacko, who really shouldn’t be/have been employed at AOC. I don’t know the truth, but do know there are two sides to the story and to just blindly accept the one that best fits one’s agenda is simplistic and irresponsible (unless the goal is not truth but to advance that agenda). Someone brought up the Republican affiliation of most of the Judicial Council and that somehow parlayed into “evil doings” by the council. Well for those Democrats here (I am one), you sound exactly like the Republicans who try to thwart Obama on EVERY matter; if the President’s for it, I’m against it. You sound exactly the same.

    And another thing that is an absolute disgrace: the disrepect openly extended to the Chief Justice and various other judges and justices who are perceived and AOC “company” men and women. Blatant ridicule and a lack of dignity. How can the judges who post on this site sit silent? Did not Judge Fall in a posting of September 8, 2009, lecture all on how he should not be addressed as “Tim”? “When you address a judge (even as an anonymous staff member) you should use the title Judge. It will strengthen your arguments and position.” The vitriol and lack of dignity unleashed on the Chief Justice, Justice Huffman, et al., should not be tolerated. The AOC Watcher himself or herself being perhaps the biggest offender (“King George”). Fine to criticize in reasonable fashion, but with the posters here apparently being connected to the judicial branch, respect and dignity should be maintained. You got my back on this, Judges Fall, Horan, et al.?

    • Of course I’ve got your back on that, Joe Montana. In fact, if you look above at my 12/27 post you’ll see, “Like many here, I would rather read criticisms of ideas and actions than of people and personalities. It is a fine line sometimes but one that is worth adhering to, in my opinion.”

      Maybe it’s you who have my back, so thanks for the support!

      Tim Fall
      Judge, Yolo Superior Court

      • Since you ask, Joe Montana (one of my favorite quarterbacks of all time, by the way), I will echo Judge Fall’s comment. The fact that a judge has posted one or more comments here does not imply agreement with or endorsement of any or all of the hundreds or thousands of comments by others, and I’m sure everyone understands that. It also does not imply that a judge even reads each and every comment. I simply endorse the concept of debate of governance issues–that is what interests me the most. Judges post here rarely, I imagine, precisely because they do not wish to be pulled into conversations that they ought not be involved in, or be seen as condoning such. You might have noticed my post on that subject a while back. No judge I am aware of advocates, I’m sure, disrespect toward any judicial officer or non-judicial officer for that matter, and I don’t think anyone would reasonably believe that.
        I also agree that name-calling is rarely appropriate or productive. Thanks for your thoughts.
        Chuck Horan

    • Mr. Montana: Why would you bother to call someone (an unidentified person) a “whacko” when you admit that you have never met them, and you don’t know a thing about his or her situation? I think dignity extends to everyone, and not just judges or company people that you think are more important. And for the millionth time, no one here is saying that everything the AOC does is horrible. They do wonderful things. They also have some serious problems with leadership and ethics.

    • Mr. Montana

      I agree with you that name calling adds very little to further the goals of many who post here – more accountability, greater transparency and increased public trust and confidence in the judicial system.

      Those are goals to which everyone who works in the courts or the AOC should aspire. However, I believe many of those who post here feel that the AOC and the JC have lost sight of these goals. As pointed out by others, including Judge Horan, the governance structure of the AOC does nothing to serve the goals of tranparency, accountability or increased public confidence. The majority of the voting members are appointed by the Chief Justice, who has stated on the record that he would consider any effort to democratize the council a “declaration of war”.

      As also noted by Judge Horan, the JC establishes broad policies based on AOC staff recommendations and then apparently doesn’t feel a need to provide oversight of the AOC’s implementation of policy. There is rarely, if ever, dissenting votes cast by JC members. More importantly, the policy issues are framed in such vague and obscure terms, they provide no meaningful standards to measure the AOC’s performance (assuming the JC felt the need to provide oversigh). The best example of an overly broad policy resulting in an ineffective implementation strategy is CCMS. The policy – a statewide CCMS. The result – an 8-year, billion dollar boondoggle

      The leadership of the AOC and JC needs to face the reality that they have lost credibility both within and outside the branch. They can charecterize the anonymous posters on this blog as a small group crackpots and malcontents. However, you can’t do the same with the leaders of Alliance, such as Judges Horan and Fall. These judges are respected and recognize there is a problem with the current system and it needs to be fixed. Likewise, the loss of credibility was seen last week when Judge Vicencia, as president of the CJA, called for additional oversight of the AOC. This is not to mention the press and the legislature who have both raised questions regarding the AOC’s implementations decisions and the JC complete lack of oversight.

      In my opinion, the leadership of the AOC and the Chief Justice have exhibited an arrogant and dismissive attitude to anyone who offers a dissenting voice or questions JC policy. Unfortunately, that attitude may be their downfall. You can draw your own conclusions, but the Chief Justice has called Alliance judges “shrill and uninformed” and intimated that those who voiced objection to the court closures were more concerned about their own pocketbooks than the good of the branch.

      When Mr. Overholt was asked two years ago if it was possible to discuss the merits of the CCMS project, he responded by stating “that train has left the station” and no further discussion on the subject was allowed. Comments like that do not encourage open dialogue and project arrogance and condecension.

      The AOC has done little to dispel the notion that it is the devil or the boogeyman. You don’t need to look any further than the proposed amendments to GC Section 77001 the AOC submitted to legislature last year. If you ever doubted where the AOC stood on the issue of local control, just look at the language it proposed should be stricken from the current statute.

  41. In these times, merely obtaining a position of power no longer magically entitles individuals to be levied with respect and honor. Instead one must always behave honorably, and the respect will be earned. It is difficult to respect a Chief Justice that slamms insults at people with dissenting opinions ie “shrill.” So if Ronald George, and Justice Hoffman want to be respected, they need to behave with honor, and then maybe they can again capture the title Honorable.
    Merriam-Webster:
    Main Entry: hon•or•able
    Function: adjective
    Date: 14th century
    1 : deserving of honor
    2 a : of great renown : ILLUSTRIOUS b : entitled to honor —used as a title for the children of certain British noblemen and for various government officials
    3 : performed or accompanied with marks of honor or respect
    4 a : attesting to creditable conduct b : consistent with an untarnished reputation
    5 : characterized by integrity : guided by a high sense of honor and duty

  42. Hey Joe, no offense but how about the “dissing” of all of the judges in the state by the JC and the AOC for not allowing any dissent and calling them “shrill and uninformed”? Whatsup with that? I totally respect your opinion Mr. Montana but hey, like I have said before many times on this blog, many many CEOs and Judges have tried to work with the AOC and JC on many of these issues but were shot down over and over. Many have finally given up in disgust or by sheer exhaustion. If you know what most of us know, the AOC is not the devil the boogey man or whatever you choose to call them, it is just we all want to have the opportunity to make our opinions and views known, in order to best serve the branch and the public. But hey, Joe, thanks for your comments and I certainly welcome them. I have worked with judges for over 21 years and would not even dream of distrespecting them, until they earned it.

  43. Read more carefully Claire. I didn’t call anyone a whacko. I said I don’t know any of these folks so am not in position to comment. The point was that there are two sides to every story, yet folks like yourself (I can’t even think of the best adverb; impulsively? immaturely? stubbornly? blindly? disingenuously? not sure) jump to the conclusion that AOC is some horrid monster at the first allegation against it or even rumor. Take the Negley situation. Do you know how many lawsuits that get filed are frivolous? Especially in the employment realm? Lots and lots. And many have merit too. But Ms. Negley loses her job (or gets demoted or something–don’t know the issues) and sues, and most on this site hail her as a hero and accept her allegations as gospel. It may well be that employment laws were broken, in which case I hope she prevails and obtains whatever remedy she seeks. But it may also be that her lawsuit lacks merit. But that doesn’t seem to matter to anyone. The fact she filed a suit is proof AOC is evil. It would be rare to find any employer of the AOC’s size that is not an active defendant in mulitiple employment lawsuits. I’m sure that many of the trial courts right now have employment litigation or at least grievances pending against them too. I have know idea if such litigation is more or less prevalent against the AOC than against others. But Ms. Negley files her action and suddenly it’s proof positive that nefarious, tyrannical doings are at play. This is just one small example of what is constant here, and all I’m saying in this instance is reserve judgment until the legal system runs its course. (Even then, the truth may never be known due to out-of-court settlements.) But that’s not how it works here, which leads me to assume ignorance, agenda, and/or ulterior motives.

    Judges Fall and Horan, I think you would agree that this blog may have done a service by causing folks to think about certain issues. For example, I never really thought about CCMS one way or the other. Now I see that legitimate policy debate exists as to whether continued investment of current money in that system is appropriate (I’m not informed enough to have decided whether I believe it’s an impossible money-pit that can never succeed, as it’s often made out to be here). And I fully realize that neither of you disrespect the robe. But with such disrespect so rampant here, it just sort of unnerves me a little when I see sitting judges participating in the discourse without calling out those who openly ridicule (personally even
    ) our elected judicial officers. Clearly, the judges who post here are championed by the masses and when a judge weighs in the flames are most definitely fanned. So the undignified treatment of certain judges and justices is perhaps magnified or tacitly (although unintentionally) blessed. I know that is no one’s intention. And I’m not for the slightest second suggesting any sort of ethical violation. I am convinced there is not one. But I do see an analogy with that rule about judges not associating with organizations that discriminate, for instance. Even if a judge personally believes that African-Americans should be allowed to be members of that club, the judge should still not be a member of the club that excludes them. We are talking the dignity of the robe here, and not racial discrimination, I know. And the mob vitriol tends to be directed at these judges in their position on the council or other capacities (writers of letters to newspapers, e.g.), and not to their actions on the bench. So maybe that makes a difference. Something just hasn’t sat well with me though. And you’ve now both openly stated your disapproval of the personal attacks and disrespect against our elected judges, so I guess that settles that. No disrespect intended against either of you (or any other judge that posts here). I just find the lack of dignity (as opposed to rational or at least debatable criticism) that is displayed so openly and notoriously here against the Chief Justice and others who wear the robe to be disturbing, and not sure if there might be a better forum for rational debate than a venom pit.

    • Paula J. Negley

      Joe Montana:

      As an FYI, the lawsuit was filed on August 1, 2008. I was terminated by the AOC on April 6th, 2009, over eight months after the lawsuit was filed, and after I obeyed the order of a federal court judge. If you would like to verify these facts you may do so up on the 16th floor of the federal building at 450 Golden Gate Avenue in San Francisco, where the federal lawsuit was filed.

    • In the unlikely possibility I’m the ‘whacko’ you speak of-

      I was employed as a hired gun by the AOC for 3.5 years.

      They had ample time to evaluate my skills and come to the decision if I was a ‘whacko’ or not before extending to me employment that amounted to a 50% pay cut over my previous dozen years or so of consulting.

      Why did I take the job?

      Public Service.

      Public Service is the only reason I stick around.

      Public Service that has taken on an entirely new light as of late.

  44. I do love definitions. And wit. Here is my definition of wonderful:

    http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/programs/justicecorps/

  45. Oh, I understand you Joe. I actually agree this time. I never have met the person you mention, although I am sure she is thrilled to know someone from the branch is commenting on a case she may have currently, or potentially now. That aspect of the blog has always bothered me, and it’s bothered me from the beginning that no one at the AOC or Judicial Council or any court took it seriously and gave people in the branch guidance on it.

    We are one branch, give some guidance, please.

  46. Oh Joe can I say something else? I hear you on the lawsuits that may not have merit. I myself have been subject to one. OMGosh, these seems like a “venom pit” but this is not an LA Time editorial, it is a frikin blog. It is an opportunity for those of us that have tried and failed to make changes in the most diplomatic way and have not succeded, a way to vent. The frustration level is so high about not having a reasonable way to have our views heard. I am sad that you think all of us are nuts or mavericks out there. If you only knew who we are and what our experience is, but we cant tell you that because we are all afraid of reprisals. If you say there are none, then you really don’t know. Best wishes to you Joe. Gosh, I have tried so hard myself to personally make a difference, it makes me so sad that the AOC won’t listen. Unfortunately, this makes most reasonable folks rebel. If you don’t want to believe this I am sorry. But it is true. I am not some weird lone wolf out there.

  47. courtflea:

    Until blogs emerge on the branch site, this is a forum where people will go for dialogue or commentary on the AOC. Remember that many more people read it than post on it. You have kept it entertaining.

    You may even see a branch blog debut before CCMS is finished. The race is on.

  48. Joe Montana

    As to the respect for the robe issue. I agree it would be entirely inappropriate (and possibly unethical) for a judicial officer or trial court employee to publicly critcize a judge or justice for a decision made while he or she was acting in an adjudicative capacity.

    However, judges, as elected officials, and trial court and AOC employees, as taxpayers, have every right to comment on a decision made by a judge or justice acting in their administrative capacity. A judge sitting on the bench hearing a case is entitled to a certain level of respect simply because of his or her position. Our system of justice requires as much.

    However, a judge acting in an administrative capacity can and should be willing to accept constructive criticism. The person offering the comments should do so in a manner that does not undermine public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary.

    Please keep in mind that the CJ has arguably expressed opinions about other judicial officers (as a group and not individually) that were not appropriate. As mentioned many times, the CJ has characterized critics of his administration as “shrill and uninformed”. In addition, the CJ suggested at a JC meeting that those judges opposed to mandatory court closures were possibly more concerned about their own financial well being than the best intersts of the branch.

    I think many of the views expressed here are the product of the frustration of attempting to talk to the AOC about these issue or to question policy, only to be ignored. The patronizing and dismissive attitude of the AOC leadership toward anyone who questions policy, as described by courtflea above, is very real.

    Whether the comments on this blog reflect appropriate respect towards those in leadership is an issue that is subject to debate. However, to the extent this blog has changed your perspective on an issue like CCMS, means that it has served its purpose.

    I don’t know whether the purported benefits associated with CCMS justify the costs and delay in developing the project. However, because there has been a complete unwillingness on the part of the AOC or JC to even consider this question, I don’t think anyone can answer it.

    I think if the branch leadership showed they were open to simply revisiting some of its policy decisions and encouraging open debate of these issues, they would go a long way in restoring their credibility.

  49. Mermaid has discovered all kinds of treasures under the sea. This is from August 2007:

    http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/jc/documents/reports/083107_admin_dir_report.pdf

    “Technology. A major milestone was accomplished on June 29 (2007) when the AOC and Deloitte signed an agreement to begin the development phase for V4. This phase of CCMS will include adding functionality for family law, juvenile dependency and delinquency; as well as building other judicial branch components such as statewide reporting, court interpreter and court reporter scheduling, and a wide ranging set of integration functionality with other justice partner applications.”

    The world was so exciting in 2007! Does any of this match what the “adopter” courts will do in 2010? I really mean this in a nice way, but I think poor CCMS has grown up like an abused foster child (born to wealth, then bounced around and mistreated in various homes until reaching poverty).

  50. Claire, you cannot survive in this business without a sense of humor. So I will take your comment as a compliment. Thank you. However, if some see humor as disrespectful, well then they need to get a life. I think it is human nature to make maybe not so nice or perhaps not the most respectful comments about those whose views you oppose or find just plain laughable. Take for example political cartoons, the comic strip Doonebury, a Jay Leno monologe or even words exchanged the floor of the legislature. Some folks just need to put what is being said here in perspective and just plain take a chill pill.

  51. I completely agree. I think people alternatively confuse this anonymous site with anything from “judge talk” to “AOC information land” (and it has clearly provided new information, which is rare for a government-related blog in California). For many of us, it has become the way that we can communicate with the world about all of the dysfunction and hiding that takes place at the AOC. If people don’t want to read it, fine. But don’t be surprised if more and more people read it until there is no longer a need for it. I have gotten all the information that I needed for assignment, so others can now use it for the same purpose. Thank you courtflea.