Judge Charles Horan of Los Angeles wrote a piece on behalf of the Alliance of California Judges (ACJ) titled “Need for Oversight of AOC Is More Apparent Than Ever.” The piece was published in the Metropolitan-News Enterprise today. In the piece Judge Horan writes that the latest revelations regarding unlicensed contractors and a lack of interest in the Judicial Council to supervise its bureaucratic arm, the Administrative Office of the Courts, is proof that the AOC needs oversight.
From a trial judge’s perspective, local control of court operations and decisions regarding access is why we are elected in contested countywide elections. It is certainly not to decide cases based upon some regional interpretation of statute. To have important decisions about court access made by judges or staff who are not locally elected, or even aware of the problems in any particular county, is contrary to the basic precepts of our constitution and form of government. To dissent from such an approach is not to weaken the branch, or cast the judiciary in a bad light, but I believe to ultimately strengthen it.
Local control is necessary, but with every moment it becomes more clear that we continue to move farther and farther from this approach. Judges need to be educated as to the policy embodied in Government Code Sec. 77001, which policy is often ignored or forgotten by those on the Judicial Council and within the Administrative Office of the Courts. In fact, draft legislation recently emanated from the AOC, without the apparent knowledge of the Council, which would have essentially gutted the section. A copy of this draft accompanies this article.
More alarming, the Council has now publicly stated that which we feared all along:
They have little apparent interest in overseeing the AOC, and believe they have no ability to do so.
A senior member of the Council for 12 or more years pointed out at the Dec. 15 Council meeting that the Council only meets six times a year, has voluntary membership, and cannot and will not increase their oversight. They prefer to set policy and have the AOC do whatever they see fit to implement the policy. Oversight is minimal at best.
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