Justice George Sends New Year’s Letter to Judges

Justice George started the New Year by sending out a letter reminding his judicial colleagues of how the evil of court closures was a necessary evil. In the letter he defended the Judicial Council’s decision to close the courts once a month.

Our action in closing the courts for four days in 2009 reflects the judicial branch’s recognition of the economic downturn that has affected all Californians in both the public and the private sectors. As inconvenient as these court closures have been to the public, to the bar, to our employees, and to all of us, they were a rational response, among the available alternatives, to the budget reductions in the current fiscal year, and have allowed some courts to avoid or minimize the layoffs that might otherwise have been necessary. AOC staff are preparing a report on the impact of the closures that will be presented at a special session of the Judicial Council on January 21.

He also discussed how the Voluntary Salary Waiver program, a program in which judicial officers gave up a portion of their salaries to honor the furloughs suffered by court employees, had become “an example for all of state government during the fiscal crisis.

During my meeting with the Governor just two weeks ago, he expressed his admiration for judges who are participating in the voluntarily (sic) salary waiver program or otherwise donating a portion of their salaries to assist in funding trial and appellate court operations. Through your personal sacrifices, you have set an example for all of state government.

No mention was made of how some judges opted not to participate in the VSW program and instead donated a share of their salary contributions to outside charities or creating funds of their own within their own counties to assist county court employees.

You can read the justice’s entire letter by clicking here.

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117 responses to “Justice George Sends New Year’s Letter to Judges

  1. Sounds like someone who is running for office.

  2. Either that or someone that needs to buy a ticket on a private outer space flight so he can go live there. I guess on the death star. (I believe/hope they all end up destroyed?) Because he sure doesn’t live on this planet – much less in the State of California. . . . in touch with the trial courts.

  3. “(AOC) Employees have not received a cost-of-living increase for the past two years.” *

    * Truth footnote: 80 AOC employees received raises, including AOC directors who already make well over $100,000 per year. The vast majority of AOC employees have not seen a COLA or MSA increase in years — and last year their pay was reduced. The AOC is run like Wal-Mart (money at the top, cheap at the bottom)

  4. And no offense Chief, but I could care less about your meeting with the Governor two weeks ago. He is a lame duck who is proposing kooky ideas about red lights and speeding tickets. Please don’t tell me that you told him that sounded fine as you laughed together and drank Pinot noir.

  5. With a nod to Dorothy Parker:

    This is not a letter to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.

    Constant Reader throwed up.

  6. Claire Voyant

    I really do support a lot of what the Chief Justice has done in the past thirteen years. However, we are in the present. Under his leadership, he has led individual courts to suffer and has allowed CCMS to bankrupt the branch. And he has allowed large raises to go out to directors who have failed to protect the best interests of the public or the courts. This is not leadership or proper stewardship of an entire branch of government. My opinion.

  7. Does it strike anyone else that this letter strikes one as a little desperate? Heh, look at me…look what I…I mean we….have done over the last decade! His litany sounds more like a petition for sainthood than a New Year’s greeting.

    His drumbeat of the bad old days wears a little thin now. Almost as thin of his story of touring all the courts in the state and how he saved the Hillside Strangler Case single handedly.

    In those bad old days that he runs down so often, no courts in the state were forced to close, no employess were laid off, no one was furloughed, judges didn’t take pay cuts and courthouses somehow got built. All without a 1000 strong over paid AOC set on Branch wide domination at the expense of principle. Judges actually ran the courts and, as many of us well remember, California had the finest court system in the country with employees who honestly cared about what they did everyday.

    Maybe it is time he got back to being a judge and stopped being a career politician. We know what we have…the good, the bad and the ugly! His cheerleading doesn’t move the ball. It only irritates and shows so much more of the bad and ugly!

    PS Can’t wait to see how Bill V. spins this budget into a victory for us all. Stay tuned.

  8. The letter does strike me as a little campaign-ish, and “look what we’ve done,” but the man is up for retention in November. Part of me feels bad for the Chief, because he is a jurist and he must not have much time or inclination for management. On the other hand, if he is the only one who is really in charge, the only one who can remove poorly peforming directors, then he must take good criticism along with the bad. And we know now that he reads this blog, so I will tell him directly: you have some really poorly performing directors.

  9. Special Prosecutor

    I think the Chief deserves respect for his accomplishments. He also deserves a reality check from those who work in the courts and in the AOC. This forum is his reality check.

    I also can tell you that AOCW is highly entertaining and informative to the press, the Legislature, the Governor’s office, and anyone else who has a computer and is interested in the strange and macabre world of the AOC.

  10. The Chief needs an intervention, obviously.

  11. AOC NEWS RELEASE.

    Letter from Chief Justice George

    Dear Colleagues,

    Well, it has been quite a year hasn’t it? We in the Judicial Council and the AOC saw the impending disaster in early 2009 so we had a mid-year conference in San Francisco to discuss the financial crisis in the Courts. What a great time we had snoozing and boozing in the Presidential Suite and at the O’Leary Reception. My trusted colleague, Bill, will distribute a report to you about the conference as soon as he shows Assemblyman DeLaTorre our homework on CCMS.

    Speaking of that hearing in front of Assemblyman DeLaTorre in October I want to report to you that Bill did a great job. As usual he did not know what he was talking about and avoided answering the tough questions but he sure looked and sounded good. And Shela! I just loved the way she interrupted the Assemblyman. She really put him in his place. Because she occupies one of those critical positions I have personally authorized a pay raise for her.

    Although we wowed the Assembly in October there were some bumps on the Road to Paradise.
    I have sent out two Justices and Mr. Keslo to explain the CCMS program to the Public. I fear that they were not properly briefed because they do not seem to agree on the cost of CCMS or when it will be deployed. This will be corrected forthwith.

    The Press has been pesky. Not one article or editorial has fairly reported what we have accomplished here in the Judicial Council and in the AOC. These shrill and uninformed newspeople have been joined by some Justices, Judges, AOC employees, Court Clerks, Sheriffs, and the Public. I intend to remedy this failure to communicate in 2010.

    Based on my warm and personal relationship with the Governor I fully expect manna from him or the Federal Government before the start of the next fiscal year. The Governor and the President of the United States seem to in agreement on everything.

    I hope to have your support in 2010. I have earned it and you are obligated to give it.

    Warmest personal regards,

    The Chief.

    as

  12. Underlying this letter is the belief that our branch existed in “name only” before the Chief arrived to create the “governance structure” that saved the trial courts and expanded public access to the courts. How ironic. Thanks to a centralized ” governance structure” we are reducing services to the public by way of court closures, furloughs and layoffs not to mention spending almost 2 billion dollars of taxpayer dollars on a flawed and yet to be implemented case management system. None of this existed when the courts were governed effectively at the local level and were responsive to the citizens who elect their trial court Judges. The solution to our current problems is to reform the current “governance structure” and democratize the Judicial Council so that the voices of all our citizens are reflected in a positive and open way in guiding our branch of state government in the future.

  13. Uncivil, juvenile, and unproductive? Like I have said before, just show me why I should not feel that a man in denial that is supposedly leading the judicial branch should not get a reality check?

    Or are you just suggesting that we all stick our heads back in the sand and pretend that we don’t see what is really going on in the branch and blindly trust what they assume is leadership?

    And please someone, remind me of what his acomplishments are? Sure he has been a nice guy and fostered communication in the beginning but that was many moons ago and I believe that was all a strategy to eventually take total control of the branch and further his own power.

    That is just a fleas read. I need to go back to bitting ankles now.

    • I suggest that you be civil. Do you have kids? If so, how do you teach them to resolve their differences with others? Calling names behind their backs, or confronting the issues head-on and attempting to argue/debate openly like reasonable adults? Look at what the ACJ is doing — they write respectful, appropriate letters, asking for information. They affix their names to those letters. I certainly don’t agree with all of their positions, and I think they are making some incorrect assumptions about judicial branch governance and management, but you can’t deny that they are approaching the issues in an appropriate way. Would that the same could be said for the rest of you.

      • Hi Judge Dredd:

        I’m not sure who you mean by “the rest of you.” Are you referring to every person who posts anonymously? That reminds me of a recent statement that “Interestingly enough, much of the most vocal opposition to court closures in the name of access to justice has come from persons who in the past have shown little or no interest in our efforts to maintain and increase access to justice, so one might question whether these concerns are totally genuine, or reflect instead perhaps some personal concern about the implications – financial and otherwise – to oneself from closures and from the pressure to engage in voluntary furloughs for one day a month.”

        Those “persons” were never named so everyone who voiced a opposition to statewide mandatory closures had cause to wonder if they were being painted (or perhaps tainted is a better word) by this broad brush, whether the charge of concern for personal gain would apply to that person in fact or not.

        Perhaps you did not mean to paint with a similarly large brush, or perhaps you did. Using the phrase “the rest of you” just has me wondering if you dismiss all critical comments posted under a pseudonym as being uncivil and inappropriate.

        Thanks,
        Tim Fall
        Judge, Yolo Superior Court

      • Richard Saunders

        Judge Dredd said,

        “They affix their names to those letters… but you can’t deny that they are approaching the issues in an appropriate way. Would that the same could be said for the rest of you.”

        IMHO, Dredd is implying that since many of this blog’s contributors are anonymous that there is something wrong with the opinions expressed here. Odd comment from an AOC apologist named Judge Dredd.

        Oh and by the way, YES I can say that this blog’s contributors are approaching the issues in an appropriate way.

  14. Great points pacwest50 and courtflea among many others. The problem is the CJ has concentrated power through his total control of the JC and AOC. He has criticized any one who has the courage to speak up as “shrill and uninformed” and against providing the public with access to the courts. He also proclaimed that any movement to democratize the Judicial Council would be be a “declaration of war”. In the great democracy we live in-how did we ever get to this point?Why is an entire branch of government controlled by the CJ who tolerates no open and diverse views?His letter says it all a 50% increase in funding for trial court operations in the last decade! Can anyone justify that?The legislature needs to act now to ask how we got away from local control of the courts and where is the trial court bill of rights they established at least 10 years ago?

    • Quick question — Do you really think the Legislature preferred dealing with 58 different counties/courts, or do you think the Legislature likes having to deal with one centralized agency? Do you really think that if the Legislature moved aspects of centralized Branch governance away from the AOC, it would move it back to the counties or local courts? Or, instead, do you think the Legislature would simply insert itself into the running of the Judicial Branch instead? I know that there is a lot of call for the Legislature to strip the AOC of a lot of its role in Branch administration, but I’m worried that the result is not going to be the court-controlled utopia that a lot of you seem to be anticipating. Could be instead that we see a major legislative power grab and a weakening of the Judicial Branch overall. Be careful what you wish for, and be very prepared to prove up to the Legislature that the local courts have the wherewithal to run themselves without any degree of central oversight. The Mendes’ of the world will not do you all any favors in that regard, nor will the relentless insistence by the LA bench that judges should get enhanced retirement benefits. Without the AOC, it’s every “man” for himself, and here, there are 58 “men” with very different agendas in play.

  15. Special Prosecutor

    Regarding the traffic ticket issue, let’s be real here (since this a truth forum, after all). The Governor does not want to raise taxes but he has no problem (working with the Chief?) to increase fines and penalties associated with traffic matters. Let the issuing agencies handle and process those tickets (local police and CHP), and get people out of the courts unless the violator elects to go to court after he or she has processed his ticket at the police station or CHP office. High traffic fines and fees over penalize poor people, and create nightmares for the courts. You cannot say you are against taxes, but then you are basically creating a fine and fee system that penalizes poor people (and go to traffic court, I don’t recall seeing a lot of rich people there).

  16. Special Prosecutor is correct.

    Our CEO was asked how much we collected on the traffic fines we imposed. His answer was 50%.

    In San Diego going through a stop sign will cost you $446.00. I believe the basic fine is about $50.00. Then one adds $28.00 for every $10.00 of the basic fine. Then one adds a court security fee of $30.00. Then one adds a conviction fee of $35.00 for Infractions ( $30.00 for misdemeanors and felonies….so it is cheaper to commit a greater crime?)

    I agree that going through a stop sign is a very dangerous thing to do and needs a strong response from the courts. That being said our experience has been that very few people have the ability to pay this amount from current funds. When they ask the Commissioners for volunteer work or a reduced fine the usual answer is “no”. How about traffic school? That adds $52.00 to the fine.

    If the purpose of getting a traffic ticket is to make better drivers one has to wonder if fines that are this high serve that purpose.

    Judges and Commisioners should not be tax collectors for the Courts.

  17. Didn’t the Chief Justice, along with Justice McConnell, champion the court and community initiative beginning back in 1996-1997? If memory serves, the purpose of that movement was to make sure that courts in every county would reach out to their communities to learn how to meet the particular local needs of the citizenry. So why is it these days the Chief seems to have swung in the other direction, toward a centralized system that gives him, the Judicial Council, and the executive leadership of the AOC the final say in how courts will (or will not) be able to serve their communities? Was that his ulterior motive all along, or did the Administrative Director set that agenda?

    • As far as I know, the local courts have the power to: i) select their Presiding Judges, ii) hire whoever they want as CEO, at whatever salary they want, iii) hire whatever employees they want, at whatever salary they want, iv) negotiate with their employees’ unions regarding COLAs and other things, without regard to what other courts are doing, v) negotiate with their Sheriffs regarding court security at whatever level they want, vi) enact any local rules they want, so long as those rules don’t violate state law or the CRC, vii) spend their budgets allocated by the AOC however they want, so long as it’s on appropriate court expense items under CRC 810. There are probably others, too.

      So my question is, what exactly is it that the courts want to be able to do that they’re not able to do? Is it just the closure thing? If so, that seems like kind of a red herring for a lot of folks with other agendas to start arguing for more “local control.” Face it, we’re in the worst recession in recent memory. California is in a complete free-fall at all levels of government. Closures and furloughs (which many courts are not doing, by the way) are a terrible thing, but it’s hard to view that choice as unreasonable or unsupportable in light of what’s happening out there in the world.

      But please, you “local control” advocates — if the Judicial Council hadn’t required closures, would you be satisfied? If not, what other “local control” do you want that you think you don’t currently have?

      • Judge Dredd

        Your are correct your charecterization of each trial courts authority under existing law.

        However, I am not sure that the ability to select a PJ and/or CEO is the issue of concern for those who post here or have been critical of the AOC/JC . I don’t want to speak for anyone else, but my main point of contention is that the JC, whose membership is controlled by the CJ, makes very broad policy decisions, which do have impacts on the local courts’ finances and operations. For example, I know some courts are operating with very old and outdated case management systems. These courts could have gone out to a CMS vendor years ago and purchased a new system. However, they have been told by the AOC not to, because of the eventual deployment of CCMS. The fact that CCMS may cost more than another product to deploy and operate, may not work as well given the court’s business needs and is not available, has a significant effect the operations of a court in this situation.

        Furthermore, these far-ranging policy decisions are made without any real opportunity for debate or discussion. The almost complete lack of dissenting votes to any policy recommended by the AOC, supports the belief among many AOC critics that there may be an uspoken agenda driving these decisions.

        I beleive CCMS is an example of this scenario playing itself out. As oringinally envisioned, CCMS was one of several case management options available to the Courts under a plan adopted by the JC. CCMS was a joint project of Ventura, Orange and LA (maybe). However, at some point it appears a policy decision was made to abandon the original IT strategy and go exclusively with CCMS. Exactly when and how this decision was made is not entirely clear.

        Since then CCMS has proceeded with very little oversight by the JC. As far as I know (and I could be wrong), issues such as the overall expense of CCMS in the context of available ressources, its costs vs. benefits, and negative evaluations of the project (2004 LAO report), were never discussed in public at JC meetings. I have to believe if a JC member were told that the AOC planned to spend $1.4 billion on a case management system or the LAO issued a report critical of the project from an IT project management perspective they would have asked some questions. I hope they would anyway.

        Other than the 5 or 6 large courts that participated in the original project, small to mid-size courts had no opportunity to provide input into the systems design. After spending more than $400 million on the development of the system, no one knows if it will function in a small court environment, yet these courts are expected to pay for the system.

        What is most troubling is the JC/AOC promote CCMS as cutting edge and a success. It is mystifying to me how a project that has been almost 9 years in development, costs $400 million to date, will cost another $1.0 billion to deploy and no one has been able to identify a source of funding for the deployment, can be considered a success.

        As to local control, please take a look at the amendments proposed by AOC to GC Sec. 77001. These amemndments would have transferred virtually all control of the trial courts opearations to the JC. Despite the clear legislative intent favoring a decentralized system of trial court administration, the amendments would have created a centralized system.

        I don’t believe the main focus of the criticism is that consolidation, unification or trial court funding were bad ideas. I think those who contend that anyone who questions AOC/JC policy also wants to go back in time to the days of county administration of the courts, are attempting to create a straw man.

        The real issue is whether the current governance structure of the AOC/JC, either in its design or in its operation, promotes transparency and accountability and adequately recognizes the role of locally elected trial court judges in participating in the administration of justice in California.

        Assuming it is possible to speak with “one voice” given the diversity that exists in the various court jurisdictions throught the state, the JC/AOC must change the way they operate if they hope to be able to build consensus within the branch.

  18. Judge Fall (sorry, I do not appear able to reply directly to your comment): You are correct — I painted with too broad a brush. I should not have said “the rest of you,” and I did not mean to imply (nor do I believe) that all who post anonymously here are uncivil. However, I do think that there is a core nucleus of posters whose tone and general comments are such that they are counterproductive to actual discourse about the Branch’s needs. I was interested and optimistic when this site first went live, but now I find myself frustrated at what I perceive to be an overall juvenile tone — again, not by everyone, certainly, but by a very vocal group of frequent posters. Perhaps the ACJ will consider launching an alternative blog with some posting guidelines regarding civility?

    Moneywatcher: I understand what you’re saying, and yet you’re repeating a common theme here, which is that there’s “no real debate and discussion” about important Branch policy decisions. We read that complaint time and time again on this blog, and yet Judicial Council meetings come and go every two months without a peep from anyone during the open public comment period at the beginning of the meeting. If those who want debate do not stand up and ask for it, how will it happen?

    Also, where would one find the proposed amendment to GC 77001? I searched this blog, and all I found was the ACJ’s characterization of the amendments — I didn’t find the actual language. A link would be much appreciated.

    I do think you’ve hit on one important thing though, which is that the “strange bedfellows” (my term) who make up this blog appear to have very different–and, to my mind, not completely consistent–agendas. Some want more local control. Some seem to agree that AOC centralization is a good thing, but think that the AOC needs to be more transparent. Some think that anyone who is receiving a raise (or MSA, or COLA, or whatever) in these troubled times should have to give it back. Others think that if you’re a member of a union who got a COLA and/or MSA, it’s the product of good bargaining and you should keep it, regardless of the fact that your brothers and sisters in other courts and in the lower levels of the AOC took pay cuts. That tends, IMHO, to dilute the overall message. When coupled with the discourteous tone of some (as discussed above), one has to wonder just how seriously any potentially effective message emanating from this blog will be taken.

    • Judge Dredd

      If you go to the December 2009 posts on this site, you will find a 12/28/09 entry referring to an article/op-ed written by Judge Horan in teh Metropolitan-News. There is a link to the article in the post. Following Judge Horan’s article is the text of the proposed amendment.

      As to public comment at JC meetings. There is a 5 minute public comment period for items not on the agenda. I don’t think this is the appropriate forum to discuss debate issues with significant impacts on the branch, the people who work in the courts and the public served by the courts. As anyone who has ever attended the meeting of county Board of Supervisors or City Council, this is the time that members of the public get up and are basically ignored by the board.

      I think that is why many here think the JC itself must be selected in a more democratic manner and/or input sought directly from stakeholders and presented without the filter of AOC staff comments. You will note the only written materials considered by the JC are those prepared by the AOC in the form of memos.

      This is unlike the decision making process used by any other public entity. Go to a board of supervisors meeting when a development project is being considered. There may be the decision the planning commission, but before the board decides to approve or disapprove a development project, they hear from proponents on both side of the issue.

      I think your point about not everyone on this blog having the same opinion actually lends support to my position. Everyone who posts here and probably most who read this blog, are stakeholders in the state court system who should have some voice in the discussion of these issues.

      I don’t expect the JC to always see things my way and it would be arrogant of me to expect they would. However, I think I speak for a lot of others when I say that I would certainly be more accepting of the JC’s policy decisions if made after all interested parties were given the opportunity to provide meaningful input.

    • You asked for the AOC’s proposed amendments to G.C. 77001:

      AOC Budget Oversight—Trailer Bill Language

      Section 77001 of the Government Code is amended to read:

      77001. The Judicial Council shall adopt rules, policies, or directives which establish a decentralized system of trial court management. These rules shall ensure provide, consistent with statute:

      (a) Local authority and responsibility of trial courts to manage day-to-day operations.

      (b) Countywide administration of the trial courts.

      (c) The authority and responsibility of trial courts to manage all of the following, consistent with statute, rules of court, and standards of judicial administration:

      (1) Annual allocation of superior court funding.

      , including policies and procedures about moving funding between functions or line items or programs.

      (2) Local personnel plans, including the promulgation of personnel policies.

      (3) (b) Processes and procedures to improve superior court operations and responsiveness to the public.

      (4c) The trial courts of each county shall establish means of selecting presiding judges, assistant presiding judges, executive officers or court administrators, clerks of court, and jury commissioners.

      (d) Trial Superior court input into the Judicial Council budget process.

      (e) Equal access to justice throughout California utilizing standard practices and procedures whenever feasible.

      Section 77202.1 is added to the Government Code to read:

      77202.1. (a) As used in this section, “council” means the Judicial Council and “AOC” means the Administrative Office of the Courts.

      (b) The council has the responsibility for managing the budget of the judicial branch.

      (c) To assist the council in carrying out the responsibility described in subdivision (a), the following requirements and obligations shall apply:

      (1) The council shall review the current operation of the courts to identify whether there may be efficiencies that could be implemented in a court or courts to more effectively or efficiently utilize court resources. The council shall also identify opportunities that provide greater accountability and transparency for the use of judicial branch resources. The council shall report to the Budget Committees of the Senate and Assembly on any legislation needed to implement any measures to promote greater efficiency, accountability, or transparency and may adopt by policy or directive any measure that is within the council’s rule-making authority..

      (2) The executive officer of a superior court shall report to the council and the AOC on the fiscal condition of the court and cooperate with the council and the AOC on all matters as determined by the council.

      (3) As a condition of receiving its annual allocation, every superior court shall submit to the AOC for approval, a complete and detailed budget at such time and in such form as may be prescribed by the AOC, setting forth all proposed expenditures and estimated revenues for the ensuing fiscal year. The budgets submitted by each superior court shall show the allocations of appropriations or other funds available for the fiscal year by quarter or other period of time as determined by the AOC. Expenditures may be classified by line item for each program in the detail prescribed by the AOC. The AOC may require each court to set aside a specified reserve for contingencies or other purposes. No superior court shall increase or decrease a line item in excess of 10 percent in a fiscal year without authorization from the AOC.

      (4) After budgets are approved and allocations provided the superior courts, the Council may, in the interest of the judicial branch revise, alter, or amend the budget of superior courts by re-directing budget allocations among superior courts, upon notice to the affected courts and opportunity to report to the Council why such transfer should not occur.

      (d) By January 1 of each year, the AOC shall provide to the Legislature and the Department of Finance summary and detailed information regarding the approved budgets of superior courts. The AOC shall provide updates to this information, upon request, to the Legislature or the Department of Finance.

      (e) In addition to its other auditing authority, the AOC may examine all records, files, documents, books, papers, accounts and all financial affairs of any superior court. The superior court shall provide the AOC access to any records, files, documents, books, papers or accounts for the purpose of such examination, as well as, in the presence of the custodian or his or her deputy, to the cash drawers and cash in the custody of the superior court. The examination provided for by this subdivision shall occur as often as the Administrative Director of the Courts deems necessary, taking into consideration the work done by other auditors, including internal auditors.

      Government Code section 77206.1 is amended to read:

      77206.1. (a) The presiding judge, or the person designated by the presiding judge to authorize expenditures from the Trial Court Operations Fund or bank account established under section 77009(a), shall approve no claim, and shall authorize no warrant, for any obligation in excess of that authorized therefor in the budget approved by the Judicial Council.

      (b) The Administrative Director of the Courts shall advise the Judicial Council, and the Judicial Council may appoint a person or entity to manage the expenditures from the Trial Court Operations Fund or bank account established under section 77009(a), of any court found to be in violation of this section or found to be in substantial or material noncompliance with the rules or directives regulating the budget and fiscal management of the superior courts adopted by the Judicial Council pursuant to Government Code section 77206, including but not limited to the rules and directives set forth in the Trial Court Financial Policies and Procedures Manual.
      (c) The executive officer of a superior court who incurs any expenditure in excess of the allocation or other provisions of the fiscal year budget as approved by the Judicial Council or as subsequently changed by or with the approval of the Judicial Council, is personally liable for the amount of the excess expenditures.

      • Thank you Judge Fall. I’m interested to know how this got from the AOC to the world at large in the first place. As Judge Horan noted in his op-ed piece, it appears not to have been approved by the Judicial Council. Is it possible that this was prepared not at the request of the Council, but at the request of the Legislature as a result of the public brouhaha following the Mendes scandal? Because regardless of the various differences of opinion on this blog, I would guess that we would all agree that the Legislature is generally swift and reactive when a public scandal blows up that can be “fixed” through Legislation, especially where that Legislation does not impact the Legislature itself.

  19. Thanks for the link. Interesting that Judge Horan notes that the amendment to 77001 “recently emanated from the AOC, without the apparent knowledge of the Council …” Not sure what it means for something to “emanate” from the AOC. Could it be that the Legislature–in response to the fiasco in Placer and Kern re John Mendes–asked the AOC to draft something like this? I raise the spectre of Placer/Kern because of the fact that Government Code 77206 is also one of the “emanated” sections that apparently was being amended.

    Also, I hate to quibble, but the last several Judicial Council meeting agendas published online show 10, not 5, minutes for public comment. Even if you think that that’s not a correct forum, have you ever made a public request in writing to have these Branch governance issues discussed in an open Council meeting? You seem awfully sure that doing so would be folly but, as my Gramma used to say to me, “How do you know if you haven’t even tried?”

    In your perfect world, how would “all interested parties [be] given the opportunity to provide meaningful input?” How would that actually work? How would you allow all court employees, AOC employees, judges, sheriffs, union reps, DAs and PDs, and everyone else “interested” in the Branch to have “meaningful input” in “issues with significant impacts on the branch?” More to the point, how would you allow for such input while still ensuring that things actually get done? One can meet and meet and meet and listen to debate forever, but at some point, doesn’t one have to act? Especially when one is accountable to the Legislature for the money one receives every year?

    We’ve heard your take on the problem — what’s your take on the solution? Do you think an elected Judicial Council is enough? Who are the electors? Are they proportionate by court size? If so, how do we ensure that the Judicial Council doesn’t wind up being the “LA and San Diego Show?” How do we make sure the interests of small and medium sized courts are recommended? Should the unions have membership on the Council? Should the AOC employees themselves be represented?

    When seeking input from stakeholders, how does one determine who they are? How does one ensure that no stakeholders are left out? Should one respond in writing to every comment received from every stakeholder, as is done now with comments on new CRCs? If so, who pays for the staff to do all of the work responding?

    Not trying to be difficult, but I have found that utopia is much easier to achieve on paper than in practice. If you really think through the logistics of it, you may realize that the Judicial Council and the AOC are doing the best they can; it’s not a perfect system, to be sure, but I’d argue that it’s a defensible one.

    • Judge Dredd

      I think everyone knows about the problems in Placer, but I am not aware of any similar problems in Kern. As far as I am aware the administration Kern has been stable and I have never heard they experienced any problems similar to the ones experienced by Placer. The CEO in Kern is very well respected.

  20. Judge Dredd, I was wonder to which fiasco in Kern are you refering?

    Michael Lewis, Judge
    Kern County

  21. Many apologies to Kern. I meant Yolo, which I believe hired Mendes away from Placer before figuring out the score.

  22. Judge Dredd – The Legislature did not ask for those amendments. My understanding, is that the Department of Finance drafted some very limited accountability language and asked the AOC for response and they submitted the deletions and changes in the language. That is my understanding, it is not fact. Additionally, I understand that the AOC staff did not have JC authority or directive to draft the language and were waiting to see if the Legislature “bit” on the idea before advancing their language to the JC. That is my understanding, it is not fact.

    • Here is the legislation originally proposed by teh Department of Finance. It concerns an entirely different part of the Government Code. (The AOC leadership sent back the 77001 proposal rather than comment on the DoF language.)

      AOC Budget Oversight—Trailer Bill Language

      Add the following sections to Government Code as follows:

      68526. As a condition of receiving its annual allocation, every superior court in the state shall submit to the Administrative Office of the Courts for approval, a complete and detailed budget at such time and in such form as may be prescribed by the office, setting forth all proposed expenditures and estimated revenues for the ensuing fiscal year.

      68527. The budgets shall show the allotments of appropriations or other funds available for the fiscal year by quarter or other period of time as determined by the Administrative Office of the Courts and by organization unit. Expenditures may be classified by line item for each program in the detail prescribed by the office. The office may require the head of the superior court, in making up the budget allotments, to set aside a reserve for contingencies or other purposes in such amount as the office determines.

      68528. Until enactment of the budget act containing the appropriations funding the fiscal year budget, the office may revise, alter, or amend any fiscal year budget of a superior court, if, in its opinion, revision, alteration or amendment is required in the interest of the State. The office shall notify the head of the superior court of any revision, alteration, or amendment of its fiscal year budget.

      68529. Upon request of a superior court at any time during the fiscal year, the office may authorize transfers between its budget allotments, including reserves.

      68530. Every head of a superior court who incurs any expenditure in excess of the allotments or other provisions of the fiscal year budget as approved by the office or as subsequently changed by or with the approval of the office, is liable both personally and on his official bond for the amount of the excess expenditures.

      68531. Both summary and detailed state and superior court information gathered under the above provisions shall be provided by the Administrative Office of the Courts, on or before January 10 of every year, to the Legislature and the Department of Finance. The Office shall also provide updates to this information upon request of either the Legislature or the Department of Finance.

      68532. The Administrative Office of the Courts may examine all records, files, documents, accounts and all financial affairs of any superior court. It may enter any superior court in this state and examine any records, files, books, papers or documents contained therein or belonging thereto for the purpose of making such examination, and shall have access, in the presence of the custodian or his deputy, to the cash drawers and cash in the custody of such a superior court.

      68533. The Administrative Office of the Courts shall examine the books of a superior court as often as the Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts deems necessary, taking into consideration the work done by other auditors, including internal auditors, so that duplication of auditing effort may be minimized.

      AOC Budget Oversight—Trailer Bill Language

      Add the following sections to Government Code as follows:

      68526. As a condition of receiving its annual allocation, every superior court in the state shall submit to the Administrative Office of the Courts for approval, a complete and detailed budget at such time and in such form as may be prescribed by the office, setting forth all proposed expenditures and estimated revenues for the ensuing fiscal year.

      68527. The budgets shall show the allotments of appropriations or other funds available for the fiscal year by quarter or other period of time as determined by the Administrative Office of the Courts and by organization unit. Expenditures may be classified by line item for each program in the detail prescribed by the office. The office may require the head of the superior court, in making up the budget allotments, to set aside a reserve for contingencies or other purposes in such amount as the office determines.

      68528. Until enactment of the budget act containing the appropriations funding the fiscal year budget, the office may revise, alter, or amend any fiscal year budget of a superior court, if, in its opinion, revision, alteration or amendment is required in the interest of the State. The office shall notify the head of the superior court of any revision, alteration, or amendment of its fiscal year budget.

      68529. Upon request of a superior court at any time during the fiscal year, the office may authorize transfers between its budget allotments, including reserves.

      68530. Every head of a superior court who incurs any expenditure in excess of the allotments or other provisions of the fiscal year budget as approved by the office or as subsequently changed by or with the approval of the office, is liable both personally and on his official bond for the amount of the excess expenditures.

      68531. Both summary and detailed state and superior court information gathered under the above provisions shall be provided by the Administrative Office of the Courts, on or before January 10 of every year, to the Legislature and the Department of Finance. The Office shall also provide updates to this information upon request of either the Legislature or the Department of Finance.

      68532. The Administrative Office of the Courts may examine all records, files, documents, accounts and all financial affairs of any superior court. It may enter any superior court in this state and examine any records, files, books, papers or documents contained therein or belonging thereto for the purpose of making such examination, and shall have access, in the presence of the custodian or his deputy, to the cash drawers and cash in the custody of such a superior court.

      68533. The Administrative Office of the Courts shall examine the books of a superior court as often as the Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts deems necessary, taking into consideration the work done by other auditors, including internal auditors, so that duplication of auditing effort may be minimized.

      • Thank you both. That’s interesting. I tend to think that the courts would not have been much happier with the language originally proposed by DOF, given the amount of power it would have vested in the AOC with respect to trial court finances. (In particular, I am drawn to proposed 68532, which would have given AOC unfettered access to ALL trial court documents. My understanding is that there are certain internal records and other documents that courts would prefer the AOC not have access to… And WiseEmp, I don’t think I would characterize that as “limited” accountability language.)

        In any event, I think this helps support that the proposed amendment to 77001 was not necessarily the Judicial Council (or even AOC) running amok, but rather part of a larger effort at trial court fiscal oversight being driven by the Legislature as a response (one would speculate) to the Mendes situation. After all if, as I speculate, the AOC was asked to work with the Legislature on such statutory oversight language, it doesn’t seem reasonable to think that the AOC would tell the Legislature “no.” No one tells the Legislature “no,” in my experience. And I’m not sure why any AOC employee would, without Council direction or direction from the Legislature, go off on his or her own to draft this language to see if the Legislature would “bite.” What motivation would an AOC employee have for doing that? Why would that employee care or stick his/her neck out like that? I’m a little stuck on that point…

  23. spot on Moneywatcher. And Wiseemployee, I share your recollection on that statute change being prepared by DOF.

    As Judge Fall has pointed out, the CJ and the members of the JC have used some very disrespectful and uncivil remarks very publicly (not to mention some AOC management). At least folks like me recognize that such public arrogant behavior is non-productive and at best insulting. Rather, I choose to use this blog, an open forum which invites a free exchange of ideas, to express how I feel and my frustrations about how the branch is now being governed. I totally respect the position of the CJ, just maybe not the person holding it. Two totally different things.

    As I have said before, this is just a blog, not an op-ed piece for the LA or New York Times or how I would choose to address anyone in a formal coorespondence, in the press or for that matter face to face (unlike the JC or the CJ). To paraphrase Freud, sometimes sir, a blog is just a blog.

    And while you are pointing fingers at the trial courts Judge Dredd, perhaps you should re-read some of the postings by Michael Paul (and other whistle blowers) or read some of the lawsuits filed by employees against the AOC. While I don’t subscribe to the theory that if a lawsuit is filed, it makes the allegations true, it is just that those inside that glass house should look within before throwing stones. And please remember, in Placer the audit was performed by the AOC, not by an independent auditor, and we still have not totally heard the side of Mr. Mendes or the Judges in Placer, nor do we know the whys of what occured in Yolo. It is simply speculation. That my fellow blogger is the pot calling the kettle black.

  24. Composite Knuckles

    Good grief, Judge Dredd. For that much air time, you may as well disclose who you are.

    And if you want to control the tone of comments, then create and moderate your own blog.

    This one may not be perfect, but it has certainly gathered attention. And it has educated people about CCMS, Council governance, and a wide range of AOC activity (use of illegal contractors). The Legislature will continue to enact laws and force oversight so the AOC will not be able to circumvent contracting and oversight requirements that exist in the other branches. The AOC is all about control, and this blog is about exposing the truth. As the Governor likes to say, the truth hurts. I’ll be back.

  25. PS Judge Dredd, the governance of every state, city, county, and the entire US is based on democracy. Why not the judicial branch? Oh I am not talking about elections/making the branch more political, etc. Just a democratic governance. Perhaps the Judges and Justices of the State should appoint the CJ, not the govenor.

  26. Obi-Wan Kenobi

    Judge dredd,

    There is an issue with the reckless, unchecked spending of the AOC without any accountability.

    While the trial courts have to answer to the AOC, the AOC is answerable only to the legislature and the governor and what they choose to do doesn’t affect just the AOC, it affects the whole judicial branch.

    When you have a so-called oversight body that only meets six times a year and their whole agenda is pre-planned by the AOC and Justice Huffman’s E&P committee how does accountability for the AOC come into play?

    By all accounts, not only was the AOC utilizing two unlicensed contractors but they were giving these unlicensed contractors 100% of the work on a no-bid basis and paying dearly for it.

    If anyone else anywhere in government tried to pull that off they would be spending hard time in the big house. Yet the issue of accountability never comes up when it comes to the AOC themselves. Did you hear a peep about the use of unlicensed contractors in the December 15th meeting? Do you think it will come up in the January 21st meeting?

    Do you think that the judicial council will ask Bill Vickery for a copy of that crime report him and Ernesto Fuentes supposedly filed regarding Mr. Fenn’s alleged embezzlement that Kamala Harris allegedly refused to prosecute?

    Do you think the matter of Mr. Fenn declaring himself to most of the HR department that he was a personal friend of Mr. Fuentes will come up? Do you think that this possibly might be the reason that most of the HR department was fired or forced out?

    The bottom line is that the employees of the AOC see the rules being broken all over the place. They see high-ranking employees leave state payroll and come back as high-priced consultants. They see no-bid contracts for those things that financially matter most but when it comes to buying a stapler they have to get 3 bids.

    They see 31 licensed contractors pre-approved to conduct facility modifications and don’t utilize a single one of them, instead choosing to give all the work to their unlicensed contractors.

    They also know that if they say a word about it, its more likely going to get them escorted out the door rather than anyone actually cleaning up their act.

    Even in these matters no one is responsible. No one is held accountable. No one is looking out for the taxpayers and no one is enforcing the laws when it comes to the AOC’s lawless operations.

    Should an entire branch of government suffer for the misdeeds of a few at the AOC because unfortunately, without someone holding people accountable at the AOC, it is likely that the entire judicial branch will be painted with a broad brush based on the misdeeds of a few.

    That simply isn’t fair to the 800 honest, hardworking employees of the AOC.

    That simply isn’t fair to the 20,000 employees of the trial courts.

    But should we all just simply look the other way and conduct business as usual and pretend these things did not happen and no one is responsible?

    That’s what the AOC leadership is doing. Ignore it. Pretend it doesn’t exist.

    They’ve circled wagons and the only ones ever held accountable are those that bother to point out impropriety. This has been happening for many, many years now.

    And who is most responsible for this behavior?

    Chief Justice George as the head of the branch and Bill Vickery as the head of the AOC.

    Yet life goes on like none of this ever happened.

  27. Claire Voyant

    Nicely put Obi. Laws like these are on the books now because the Legislature is up to the AOC’s tricks:

    68511.9. (a) Notwithstanding any other law, the California Case Management System, as well as all other administrative and infrastructure information technology projects of the Judicial
    Council or the courts with total costs estimated at more than five million dollars ($5,000,000), shall be subject to the reviews and recommendations of the office of the State Chief Information Officer. The State Chief Information Officer shall submit a copy of those
    reviews and recommendations to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.
    (b) In conducting its review, the office of the State Chief Information Officer shall do all of the following:
    (1) Evaluate information technology projects based on the business case justification, resources requirements, proposed technical
    solution, project management, oversight and risk mitigation approach, and compliance with statewide strategies, policies, and procedures.
    Projects shall continue to be funded through the established Budget Act.
    (2) Consult with the Administrative Office of the Courts during project planning to ensure that project proposals are based on well-defined programmatic needs, clearly identify programmatic benefits, and consider feasible alternatives to address the identified needs and benefits consistent with statewide strategies,
    policies, and procedures.
    (3) Consult with the Administrative Office of the Courts to review the project governance and management framework to ensure that it is
    best designed for success and will serve as a resource throughout the project implementation.
    (4) Require the Administrative Office of the Courts to provide information on information technology projects, including, but not
    limited to, all of the following:
    (A) The degree to which the project is within approved scope, cost, and schedule.
    (B) Project issues, risks, and corresponding mitigation efforts.
    (C) The current estimated schedule and costs for project completion.

    New year, new law. Either an audit or the press is going to reveal even more.

  28. A little blast from the past:

    Firm’s bid and lips are sealed
    Silent about LAUSD payroll mess, Deloitte seeking $1.5 billion state court-case deal
    By Troy Anderson, Staff Writer
    Article Last Updated: 07/01/2008 09:37:43 PM PDT

    The contractor for software that left Los Angeles Unified School District with massive payroll problems is now bidding on a $1.5 billion contract to run California’s court-case management system.

    And the bid has created an outcry after an oversight official said Deloitte Consulting LLP failed to disclose in its bid documents that it is in the middle of a dispute with LAUSD over the system that left thousands of teachers with inaccurate paychecks.

    “I was surprised they didn’t mention the LAUSD issue,” said J. Stephen Czuleger, presiding judge of the Los Angeles County Superior Court system.

    “I gave them an opportunity to explain and expand, but they were defensive instead of forthcoming. … I wasn’t asking them for the merits on the litigation. It’s a pending case and I can’t comment on that. But if this oversight committee is going to properly do its job, it has to be done in an open manner with all the facts on the table so we are not later accused in any sense of hiding the ball.”

    But Deloitte spokeswoman Deborah Harrington said the LAUSD dispute is already publicly known and the company is complying with all requirements for its bid to operate the state court-case management system.

    “Deloitte has provided all the information sought by the (state Administrative Office of the Courts) and is responding fully to the AOC’s follow-up questions,” Harrington said in a written statement.

    “The LAUSD issue has been well-chronicled in the media, and we are in no position to breach confidentiality agreements with our clients.”

    But in the wake of the payroll problems at the LAUSD, Assemblyman Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles, has written a bill to prohibit companies that fail to meet contractual obligations with public agencies from bidding on new government contracts for five years.

    And in a June 13 letter to Sheila Calabro, the southern regional administrative director for the state AOC, De Leon said he was troubled that Deloitte failed to disclose its dispute with the LAUSD.

    “I think it’s quite astonishing that Deloitte, the same vendor responsible for the debacle at the LAUSD that resulted in tens of thousands of employees being shortchanged, simply failed to disclose the current dispute with the district when responding to the (request for proposal),” De Leon said in an interview with the Daily News.

    He said Deloitte “plainly omitted the information that was requested on the application to detail any current legal disputes.”

    The LAUSD computerized payroll system has faced numerous glitches since it was purchased three years ago, including inaccurate paychecks and W-2 forms sent to employees.

    The district initially spent $95 million to buy and install the system, according to LAUSD Chief Operating Officer David Holmquist. After problems developed, the district spent an additional $37 million to fix the glitches.

    District officials have been negotiating with Deloitte for months in an effort to recover some of the additional costs without going to court.

    “I speak regularly with people from Deloitte and we’re trying to get this resolved, so we don’t have to pursue litigation,” Holmquist said. “We will try to get back as much as we can to compensate us for the problems that we’ve experienced.”

    The system appears to be working smoothly now, and teachers have now received the correct tax forms, he said. The error rate is down to about 0.16 percent last month, compared with about 45 percent in June 2007.

    For the state court system, Deloitte and an undisclosed company are bidding for a contract to add a new case-management system that would promote information-sharing with agencies such as the state Department of Justice and Department of Child Support Services.

    Currently, courts across the state are using about 70 different case-management systems – from traditional paper-filing systems to customized software programs.

    But in 2001, a study found some courts plagued with outdated systems, deficient technical support and other problems.

    With the approval of the state Judicial Council, the AOC began the modernization project.

    Versions of the California Court Case Management System have now been launched in Orange, Sacramento, San Diego and Ventura counties.

    The system will eventually enable trial courts statewide to use one application for all case categories.

    “Parts of it are working in some counties,” Czuleger said. “It’s still in the developmental stage. The current contract Deloitte is bidding on is the actual deployment contract to take whatever is developed and deploy it in all 58 counties.”

    By the end of 2012, court systems in all 58 counties are expected to use the system.

    William Vickrey, administrative director of the courts, said the effort to evaluate bids for the case-management system are continuing.

    “Past performance, the ability to perform any and all contract requirements, and the ability to meet performance standards and accountability requirements are among the criteria upon which all bidders will be evaluated,” he said.

    Vickrey said the AOC has received a positive response from courts already working with Deloitte on other phases in the development of the case-management system.

    “But we very much appreciate Assembly member de Leon’s concern for the success of our project and the appropriate expenditure of taxpayer money, and we are pleased he will be meeting with representatives of the AOC to discuss the issues,” Vickrey said.

    “This information will all be taken into account with all the other factors before any decision is made on awarding the contract.”

    De Leon said he doesn’t fault Deloitte for bidding on the project, but he believes Deloitte should be held accountable for omitting mention of its dispute with the LAUSD in the bid.

    “It’s astonishing that, after botching the project with the LAUSD, Deloitte could turn around and bid on a new project,” de Leon said.

    “Deloitte can no longer expect the taxpayers of California to hold the bag each time they screw up.”

  29. Thank you Mary. I think Deloitte has now bounced around everywhere they can — until they get caught and legislation is passed to stop them getting large & unsupervised contracts.

    We all think the goals of CCMS are laudable. But when Sheila opened the door (under what authority I still don’t know) and gave them a $95 million no-bid contract, they have been bilking the AOC ever since. And when the money stops flowing, we will be holding the bag once again.

  30. Mary Hart great reminder for those who would rather soon forget. I forwarded a few years ago an article from the LA Times regarding the LAUSD payroll debacle to some AOC Directors and I was curtly told they were aware of it. And now here we are. I hope someone will take up DeLeons suggestion for legislation against these sheisters.

    Again, those that live in glass houses…..And I am sorry Bill V you are full of balogna.

    On another note, I find it interesting that Ron O is now responding to all press questions…where is Mr. Bill? Especially since he is notorious for being a micromanager and a control freak. just sayin

  31. Judge Dredd

    First, the amendments to 77001 were clearly offerred by the AOC. On Serranus is a FactCheck section and the AOC addressed the issue of amendments

    “In revising the DOF proposal, the AOC also suggested a revision to Government Code section 77001, the Brown-Presley Trial Court Funding Act, because this appeared to be in the spirit of what DOF was suggesting. It was not anticipated that any of the amendments to 77001 would have any substantive effect separate and apart from the AOC Budget Oversight provisions.”

    http://serranus.courtinfo.ca.gov/programs/oc/factcheck-2.htm

    As for these amendments being offerred by AOC staff without JC approval or consent, I find it hard to believe that someone in a position of authority didn’t sign off on the proposed legislation. Again, if I were on the JC and AOC staff was proposing amendments to the statute that sets forth the purpose and legislative intent of the Trial Court Funding Act, I would want to have some input before those amendments saw the light of day.

    I don’t have any great answers for your other questions in terms of what specifically I would do to improve the system. I can suggest that if there were more transparency and accountability, beginning at the top levels of the branch, we might not be having this discussion.

    Using CCMS as an example, I think there should have been some mechanism or procedure in place for courts to comment on the need for a $1.4 billion computer system relative to other local needs. Particularly when the AOC/JC expects the courts to pay for the system from their own reserves. Which means courts will be expected to defer or eliminate planned improvements with local priority, to pay for CCMS, whether the court needed a new system or not.

    Any system that has allowed $400 million to be spent over a 9 year period on a computer system that will costs another billion dollars to deploy is no longer defensible. Not only has the JC continued to fund the project, it does so without question and seems to champion it as a success. Even if CCMS does everything it supposed to do, it will sit on the shelf because the AOC has no viable funding plan for it and never had a reasonable expectation that it would ever have enough money to pay for it.

    As an example of the lack of transparency, I am not aware of the AOC ever making the JC aware of the 2004 LAO report. If you were a member of the JC and were being asked to continue to approve expenditures on CCMS and other technology projects, would you have wanted to know about that report? I expect you would and would want the opportunity to ask AOC management about the report.

    In terms of accountability, if you were on the JC in 2004 or 2005 and the AOC didn’t bring that report to your attention, would you want to know why? It is now 6 years later the project has experienced almost all of the problems anticipated by the report. It has costs not tens of millions more than anticipated, it has costs hundreds of millions. There has been no cost benefit analysis, no risk mitigation, no review, etc.

    The facts surrounding the CCMS situation alone would seem to comple some level of inquiry by the JC. Simple questions such as, “When did we ever decide we should spend over a billion dollars on CCMS?”, “Do we have enough money to pay for it?” “Where is the money going to come from and what will be the fallout if the funding never materializes?” “Who decided not to follow the recommendations in the LAO report?” “Why weren’t we provided copies of the report?” “Why did we have to learn of the regional directors getting 10% raises when courts were closing and the branch’s budget was being reduced?”

    The simple fact that these questions are not being asked by JC members, in light of all of the exposure these issues have received, is an indictment of the current system of governance. The JC refuses to demand any accountability from the AOC. My question to you is, how can this system be defended?

    You have read the posts on this site, read the invstigative articles and op-eds in the Sac Bee, Daily Journal, The Recorder, etc. You have seen comments by Judge Goldstein, Judge Maino, Judge Horan, Judge Fall and others in the press.

    What has been the response of the leadership of the judicial branch to this growing criticism? To call anyone who disagrees with policy decisions “shrill and uninformed.” Or as Judge Fall noted above, intimate that anyone who opposed court closures was more concerned about their own pocketbook than justice. Not all of the critics can be wrong or uninformed. Wouldn’t you agree that by calling out anyone who dares to speak up, the leadership is discouraging others from doing the same. While the extent of the CJ’s authority is not limitless, I don’t think anyone wants to be singled out as a malcontent by the most powerful person in the judicial branch.

  32. Judge _ Dredd – you raise many great issues and insightful comments. It is exactly this level of thoughtful and respectful debate that would benefit our branch if the Judicial Council were democratized. I agree with one of the earlier posts – I would never assume that my positions on these issues would carry the day. I would only like to see a diverse exchange of ideas which would best serve the public. Judge_Dredd it would be great someday to discuss all these ideas with you as I know we all have a common goal to do the best we can for the citizens of California.

  33. Composite Knuckles

    Agreed Lando. I also offer this as food for thought.

    Government Code 85702. An elected state officer or candidate for elected state office may not accept a contribution from a lobbyist, and a lobbyist may not make a contribution to an elected state officer or candidate for elected state office, if that lobbyist is registered to lobby the governmental agency for which the candidate is seeking election or the governmental agency of the elected state officer.

  34. What is influencing legislation or administrative actions?

    Alex, I’d like to try “Erosion of Public Trust in Government” for $50.

  35. What is this organization that provides wine to the meetings of the Judicial Council? Omerta has heard it is the Robert Shapiro Foundation or something like that. What have they provided to the Chief Justice? To the AOC? To any conference or to the judges who attended a conference put on by the JC or AOC? What was the cost of the wines? Who are these people? Do they ever appear in court?
    If you are a judge would you not want to know these things?

    We are told the Judicial Council and the AOC are some of the most open organizations known to man. If so, please answer the above. I know members of the Judicial Council and the AOC read this blog.

    If you are a newsperson reading this would you please ask? It might be innocent but until the facts are known we who work for the AOC and the public can only speculate.

  36. How does one exactly accept funds from the “Shapiro fund”? I thought there was a prohibition on accepting gifts. It’s also problematic if you have not been reporting anything to the FPPC (and should be).

  37. Obi-Wan Kenobi

    Reminder,

    January 15th is the last day that the Alliance of AOC Employees will run the “AOC Survey on Transparency & Accountability” where AOC employees can spill the beans on impropriety in anonymity and without fear of reprisal.

    That survey can be found by googling Alliance of AOC Employees or at zoomerang.com/Survey/?p=WEB22A2UNBJV4J

    This survey will end at midnight on January 15th 2010.

    Results will be submitted to those with the power to investigate on January 16th.

    The results will be submitted to AOCWATCHER. wordpress.com & will be published on AAOCCE.wordpress.com on January 30, 2010.

  38. Mary, As previously posted here sometime back, the Ralph Shapiro Administration of Justice Fund is used by the AOC to pay for a lecture series as well as other expenses, such as wine for JC receptions and special fees (Academy of Science reception, June 09) that can’t be paid for from state funds. The benefactor, Ralph J. Shapiro, is a well known southern CA attorney, businessman, and philanthropist. It has been suggested here before that he is also a personal friend of the Chief Justice. See text below from UCLA publication:

    Ralph J. Shapiro ’58
    Ralph J. Shapiro, who is chair of Avondale Investment Partners, a philanthropist and active
    participant at UCLA and UCLA Law, was honored for Public and Community Service.
    As chair of Avondale Investment Partners, Shapiro oversees funds related to commercial
    real estate properties and diversified securities. He is on the UCLA School of Law Board of
    Advisors and is a member of the Executive Board for the UCLA Medical Sciences, the UCLA
    Foundation Board of Directors and the Advisory Board of California Nanosystems Institute.
    Shapiro’s philanthropy extends beyond UCLA to many organizations throughout Los Angeles
    and across the country that support the arts, the environment, children’s health, disability
    issues and human rights. In addition to receiving a J.D. from UCLA School of Law, Shapiro is a 1953 graduate of UCLA’s College of Letters and Science. Together with his wife, Shirley Shapiro ’59 (College), he is an active volunteer and generous donor to many schools and programs at the university. He has also served as president of the UCLA School of Law Alumni Association. Shapiro is on the Boards of Directors of The United Cerebral Palsy Research and Education Foundation and The Spastic Children’s Endowment Foundation. He also serves as a Trustee of the Scripps Research Institute.

  39. If this is so and the Robert Shapiro Administration of Justice Fund is providing wine to judges via the AOC it would seem to me that the AOC should have so notified the judges who received the wine. This would be because if Robert Shapiro or his Fund or one of his business entities would appear in front of me I should tell everyone I had received this gift..

    So much of what we do when we make a disclosure to the parties in front of us is avoid the appearance of evil. I do not believe any bottle of wine, no matter how good or how expensive, would influence any judge. Nevertheless, it would not look good to have received a gift from one party without letting the other party know about it. I have to wonder why the AOC would place judges in this embarassing situation.

  40. A small point, but it’s the “Ralph” Shapiro Administration of Justice Fund, not “Robert.” Wouldn’t want to get our Shapiros mixed up.

  41. Eunicelmn is correct that it is the “Ralph” Shapiro Administration of Justice Fund.

    A quick search reveals that this Mr. Shapiro donates money to many worthy causes. He should be thanked for this.

    My quick search to see if this Fund is mentioned in Judicial Council Minutes finds only one reference and that is on June 30,2006. This reference has nothing to do with providing anything to the AOC but rather announces a speaker for one of the Fund’s lectures on November 1,2006.

    Please: I am not suggesting that anything untoward has happened. But if Mr. Ralph Shapiro or his Fund should have some issue that brings them in front of a court I believe it would be a good idea that the judge involved in this case would reveal if he/she had received any sort of a gift from the Fund. This disclosure just seems to be the right thing to do. If the AOC has been providing wine to judges and this wine is really comming from Mr. Shapiro or his Fund the judges who received this wine should been made aware of its source so they could act or not act on this information.

  42. In its 2008 tax form (990-PF), the Shapiro Family Charitable Foundation reported a $2,000 grant to the AOC. I find this unusual, because the AOC was not set up as a nonprofit to receive donations, and it is publically known that the Chief has a relationship with Mr. Shapiro. The Governor sets up a separate nonprofit entity that may receive donations to help pay for large events, so the costs of the events don’t have to come out of taxpayer funds. To my knowledge, neither the Chief nor the AOC has a separate nonprofit entity of that kind that was set up to receive donations. Now $2,000 is not a huge amount, but it does exceed gift limits for state officials. It also presents some appearance and conflict of interest issues for the Chief Justice, because there are literally hundreds of business and government entities that do business with the Shapiro foundation. The foundation’s 2008 tax return is 43 pages long.

  43. PS, someone may know otherwise, but I think the “Ralph Shapiro Administration of Justice Fund” is a made up name for a piggy bank. There is no official state entity with that name.

  44. Mary, The Ralph Shapiro Administration of Justice Fund administered by the AOC is almost certainly larger than a mere $2000. It’s widely known around the AOC that last summer’s Judicial Council reception at the Academy of Science in Golden Gate Park, coordinated by AOC meeting planners and paid for in part by the Shapiro Fund, was a $100 per head event attended by 30 or 40 people (wine and hors d’oeuvres were served). I understand there was also a sizable fee for the meeting space. $2000 would never have been enough to cover all that. To be fair, a co-worker tells me that the AOC required council members to pay out of pocket for some of the expenses for this event. But not till weeks later when the media had gotten hold of the story. My point: The Shapiro fund is almost certainly larger that $2000.

  45. I have no doubt you are correct O.T. And they may end up having to return all of the money. No state agency can accept cash for parties. The incompetence is truly frightening.

  46. The gift limit restricts the total value of gifts that officials and candidates may receive from a single source during a calendar year.

    As of January 2007, the limit is $390 annually.

  47. Like many of us at the AOC who’ve been around a while, I’ve heard of the Shapiro Fund. But as one of the non lawyer types here, I don’t really understand why judges would need to know that the AOC paid for the glass of wine or cracker and cheese that they just consumed from that fund. Regardless of how one feels about the AOC’s fiscal policies, why would it be a problem for the AOC to use the Shapiro Fund that way if, as I assume must be the case, the AOC or the Chief Justice as discretionary control of it? It’s not like Mr. Shapiro decided to purchase those goods himself. Could someone more knowledgeable explain? Is there some larger issue I’m missing?

  48. I will try to explain it without taking up too much time. If you want call me at my office telephone 760 201 8026 and I will be happy to spend all the time you want on this issue.

    Our Canons of Ethics make it clear that, except in very limited circumstances, we should not receive a gift from anyone. Let me give you an example using Mr. Shapiro who has, let us assume, given wine to the AOC and then the AOC then given me a gift of that wine. This wine is a gift from Mr. Shapiro and the AOC is simply a conduit for the gift.
    Let us then assume that Mr. Shapiro appears in front on me on some issue and I decide in his favor. If you were on the other side of this dispute you might think that a possible reason for the decision was that Mr. Shapiro had given me a gift.
    In fact, the truth is that you did not have a good case but convincing y0u of that when there has been a gift from one of the parties to a lawsuit to the judge is difficult. That is why most of us will not accept any gift, no matter how small, from anyone. We do not wish to create an appearance of bias. We do not wish to be investigated by the CJP even if we are completely innocent of any wrongdoing.

    My point in this discussion is if the AOC has given wine to judges which was provided by a person or entity that might appear in front of a judge it is only fair to both the judge and to the parties involved in the dispute that this be known. At present only the AOC has this information.

    At this time nobody knows if the Robert Shapiro Administration of Justice Fund has given the AOC wine. And we do not know if the AOC then provided this wine to any judge at any time.

    If you have access to the California Reports I suggest you read Adams v. Commission (1995) 10 Cal. 4th 866 at page 901 where our Supreme Court discusses a judge who received a fishing trip from a law firm that had business in front of the judge.

    As a footnote: we can receive a gift in the course of ordinary social hospitality. This exception has a very narrow meaning for most of us and would not include a gift of wine from someone we did not know who might possibly appear in front of us.

    Thanks for your interest Josh.

  49. Mary is right. There are gift limits for state officials and judges who are candidates for office. A slush fund for parties circumvents both gift limits and public disclosure laws.

  50. Tony Maino: Thank you for explaining; I hadn’t thought of the issues you raise.

  51. Composite Knuckles

    Judge Maino:

    It would be one thing if Mr. Shapiro or his foundation had donated a case of wine. That is perfectly fine if it’s under the gift limits. But to give out large amounts of cash is a violation of state law. I believe that CJP, the Attorney General and the Secretary of State all have power to investigate.

    The judicial canons also state that when a judge knows or has reason to believe that another judicial officer has violated the canon of ethics, he or she has a duty to report it to the CJP.

    • Canon 3D(1) of the California Code of Judicial Ethics provides:

      “D. Disciplinary Responsibilities
      (1) Whenever a judge has reliable information that another judge has violated any provision of the Code of Judicial Ethics, the judge shall take or initiate appropriate corrective action, which may include reporting the violation to the appropriate authority.”

  52. Composite Knuckles

    Thank you Judge Fall. I would hope that taking or initiating appropriate corrective action extends beyond posting to or reading the AOC Watcher.

  53. Wait a minute. Are you telling me that the entire Judicial Council is aware of this illegal fund? I could make an argument that they all need to resign, including the Chief Justice, because there is now an appearance of corruption that taints the entire Judicial Council.

    Happy January 15th, ACJ.

  54. But Mary, is the Shapiro Fund really illegal? After all it’s been around and used, as Judge Maino points out above, since 2006. Surely with all the attorneys here at the AOC, its legality would’ve been well established, don’t you think, or am I just gullible? PS: a co-worker in a position to know tells me the funds have been used to purchase “thank you” gift baskets for guest speakers at various council functions. The recipients include Clark Kelso and others.

  55. Josh, I am assuming that the attorneys at the AOC missed that the contractors to do maintenance at courthouses did not have contractors licenses. But in OGC’s defense, all a lawyer can do is recommend the best course of action to his client/bosses. What the Client/boss choose to do with the info is up to them, and the attorneys have no control over that.

  56. Yes, the fund is illegal. It was never set up as a nonprofit with a clear purpose and reporting requirements — the money went into a slush fund and it needs to be returned. And the AOC needs to publically state how much money was received each year. I do think it’s troubling for the Chief Justice because he and Mr. Shapiro are friends, and the money was clearly used to personally benefit himself and Council members.

    As should be clear by now, the AOC has operated for too long without any oversight or opportunity for internal questioning.

  57. Composite Knuckles

    The disclosure from the AOC also needs to include all non-monetary gifts. For example, flying people around on planes.

  58. The AOC has never known that is subject to the Political Reform Act. Mr. Vickrey is clearly a state official who has accepted gifts from Mr. Shapiro. And as for Chief Justice, and everyone else from Justice Chin on down who has known about use of Shapiro money:

    Gift Limit – CCP § 170.9
    The Commission (on Judicial Performance) is responsible for enforcing the restrictions on judges’ receipt of gifts and honoraria, as set forth in Code of Civil Procedure section 170.9. The gift limitation amount in that statute is adjusted biennially by the Commission to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index. On February 9, 2009, the Commission adopted the adjusted gift limitation amount of $370 for the purposes of CCP section 170.9. The gift limitation amount will be adjusted again in 2011 when the annual Consumer Price Index becomes available.

  59. Let us not forget FPPC Form 700 which all judges and justices have to file every year.
    It is a public record.

    If wine was given to the Chief Justice by Mr. Shapiro or any foundation this should be on his form. If the wine was not given the the Chief Justice but directly to the AOC then the AOC should have a record of it. AOC records do not appear to be public records.

    Omerta’s latest information is that a lot of expensive wine has been provided to judges at Judicial Council and AOC functions by this Foundation. The question is how the wine got to the judges: to the Chief Justice who then made a gift of it or to the AOC who then provided it?

    We will probably never know.

  60. Omerta: Anyone can request records from the FPPC. Anyone can also request records from the AOC that show all payments and gifts made by Mr. Shapiro or his foundation to the Chief Justice, the Judicial Council or the AOC, from 1996 to present. The AOC is under new public access laws, so their only choice is to produce material or to say it’s not available. Rather than thinking “we will probably never know,” start thinking that we have a right to know and the AOC has a duty to turn over documents.

  61. Omerta, my friend and former co-worker, an AOC event planner (no longer at the AOC), tells me that when wine was provided to council members, it was served by a vendor, such as a restaurant/hotel/etc., at a reception or dinner and then paid for from the Shapiro Fund. As recently as 2008, the Shapiro Fund was managed out of the AOC’s Executive Office. Though Mr. Shapiro was and still is the fund’s benefactor, he never had anything to do with the decision to purchase wine or any of the other items covered by the fund, such as gratuities paid to guest lecturers at AOC Judicial Issue Forums, and gift baskets, which sometimes contained bottles of wine, that were given to guest panelists and moderators who took part in council meetings. I’m told that the AOC’s Executive Office always had to clear any purchase covered by the Shapiro Fund. If what my friend says is accurate, then like others who’ve posted, I’m still not clear why a five dollar glass of wine served at a reception or dinner constitutes a gift from Mr. Shapiro that a judge would be obligated to report. Or is the real issue just the legality of the fund?

  62. The fund is illegal. You cannot have an outside benefactor that gives you cash for parties that exceeds the gift limits. The AOC needs to return all of the money to Mr. Shapiro or his foundation and disclose how much was donated.

  63. Thanks for the information Eunicelmn. I will try an answer some of your concerns.

    I am not an expert in judicial ethics but it is my belief that a judge is not obligated to report a $5.00 glass of wine received as a gift.(By the way, who stops at one glass of wine when one is at a conference and there is no driving afterwards? And where does one get a good glass of wine for $5.00?). The problem is the appearance of favoritism.

    You should reread the posts by Mary Hart, Oldtimer 38 and others. The Ralph Shapiro Administration of Justice Fund does not appear to be a legal entity. At this time there is no tax return on file for this entity. There is a Shapiro Family Charitable Foundation which says they gave the AOC $2000.00 in 2008. From the information I have this amount would not cover the cost of the wine distributed during that year.

    Under what authority does the AOC receive a gift from a person or an entity which might have business before a court? Why didn’t the AOC tell the judges who were receiving this wine that it came from this fund so the individual judges could make a decision to accept or decline the gift? Why has the AOC put each and every one of these judges in a position that might cause embarassment? What is the relationship between the Chief Justice and Mr. Shapiro that would cause this gift to be made?

    Judges are some of the most wealthy persons in State Government. Let them pay for their own wine as the rest of us do.

  64. Composite Knuckles

    Schwarzenegger uses a variety of nonprofits to throw him parties and further his interests. However, all of those nonprofits are required to file tax returns and disclose the source of their donations (so you can at least see who gave the money to the various groups). Apparently, the AOC thought they could set up a separate bank account and hide it from the world. That is never how government was intended to work.

  65. The other piece of information that people need to understand is that by any reasonable measure, Ralph Shapiro is a major and significant donor in California. In the 2008 tax return, his foundation reports that they gave $1,499,095 in donations. The return also says “grants made only to exempt organizations.” A bank account or an envelope in a drawer is not an exempt organization.

  66. Thank you Omerta and Mary. Things are a bit more clear to me now, especially the part about the missing tax return. Also, five dollars for a glass of wine in this day and time is, as you say, wishful thinking.

  67. As the facts develop in this situation is is getting close to the time, if it has not already arrived, that someone is going to have to make a request for an investigation by the Attorney General, the FPCC, and the CJP.

    • The California Attorney General’s office has stated in writing that they do not have the authority and/or jurisdiction to investigate these types of complaints if they involve the Judicial Branch or the Administrative Office of the Courts, and any such complaints should be filed directly with … the Administrative Office of the Courts. And, as the employees of the AOC have already painfully learned first hand, it is beyond reason to report this type of misconduct to the very people at the AOC who are engaging in the misconduct, just so they can investigate themselves with predictable and self-validating results, and then punish those who came forward and reported the misconduct.

      • The Fair Political Practices Commission investigates alleged violations of the Political Reform Act, imposes penalties when appropriate, and assists state and local agencies in the development and enforcement of conflict-of-interest codes.

        If you know any of the commissioners, call or write to them and ask how to file a complaint

        http://www.fppc.ca.gov/index.php?id=58

  68. All of the below is from the Shapiro Family Charitable Foundation’s 990-PF tax returns, which are publically available online:

    Gifts to AOC:

    2002 – $20,000
    2003 – $25,000
    2004 – $25,000
    2005 – $4,500
    2008 – $2,000

    At least the Shapiro foundation recorded and disclosed the money. As to it’s legality, yes, there are agencies empowered to investigate and fine.

  69. Composite Knuckles

    Thank you Mary. That will get people’s attention and validate the value of this forum.

    I hate to say it, but AOC stands for appearance of corruption.

  70. Unless Mr. Vickrey (or someone else) reported all of these gifts on a Form 700, then the AOC has some serious problems on their hands. If no judge is willing or able to file a complaint with the FPPC, then let me know via this blog and I will do it.

    • Wouldn’t this be reported on Form 801 (Gifts to Agency), rather than Form 700?:

      http://tinyurl.com/y8felyz

      • You also are supposed to report the gift within 30 days and post it on your web page. But I don’t think AOC employees have known the extent of donations that have been given by the Shapiro foundation, nor has the Executive Office apparently followed state gift reporting requirements. That is a lot of cash and it may not be a complete list.

    • That is a good point. It has to be reported on one or the other (form 700 or 801). See 2 CCR § 18944.2

      Also
      Q. If the requirements of Regulation 18944.2 are met but the official who benefits from the gift is not designated in the agency’s conflict-of-interest code to file Form 700, must the agency report the gift on Form 801?
      A. Yes.
      Q. If the requirements of Regulation 18944.2 are not met and the agency cannot accept a gift, are officials also prohibited from receiving the gift?
      A. No, but the official who receives the gift may be required to disclose it on his or her Form 700 and it may be subject to the gift limit.
      Q. If the official who benefits from an agency gift holds positions with more than one government agency, which agency should complete and post the Form 801.
      A. Form 801 is an agency report. The agency that received the gift must complete and post the Form 801. It does not matter where the official works.
      Q. The regulation requires that the Form 801 be retained for four years. How long must the agency maintain the Form 801 on its website?
      A. Four years.

  71. Composite Knuckles

    Nice work Mary. I’m interested in not only knowing the total amounts given by the Shapiro foundation, but also what exactly was done with the money? Is there any detailed accounting of how the money was spent that is available to members of the Judicial Council and the public?

  72. Mary Hart is on to something big here. The FPPC web site says that the agency who received the gift keeps the record of it on the 801 form. A look at the AOC web site does not show any 801 forms showing receipt or expenditure of $76, 500.00 from 2002 to the end of 2008. Omerta cannot find a record of any 801 form ever being filed by the AOC. But not to worry, the Judicial Council and the AOC are the most transparent and honest of any organization or agency in the State of California and Omerta is certain, since they read this blog, that they will soon send send out a transmission to all justices, judges, and “justice partners” so that everyone will know they are transparent and honest. But maybe the AOC did not post form 801. Maybe they forgot….no doubt that will be corrected by this time next week.

    Somebody and by that I mean the Chief Justice, Mr Vickrey or the AOC should have made a report of this gift. Omerta believes that no such report will be shown to have been filed by anyone. This might not just be an error that anyone can make in reporting but something far more serious…..it just could be that it is “handcuff” time for someone.

    The FPPC web site gives information about making a complaint. It must be done under penalty of perjury. It is difficult to keep the identity of the complainant confidential. There is a toll free “tip line” at 800 561-1861. Call between nine to noon and one to four on Mondays through Fridays. I wonder if they are closed on furlough day?

    Does anyone find it strange that in looking through the past minutes of the AOC there is, as far as Omerta knows, zero mention of Mr. Shapiro and his wonderful gifts to the Judicial Branch? Look at those minutes. If someone makes sure that there is toilet paper in the bathrooms there is a kudos to the person responsible.

    Is it just possible that Justice Huffman and the members of the Judicial Council from 2002 to the present know nothing about this matter and it is a slush fund under the direction of the Chief Justice and Mr. Vickrey?

    California is starting to sound like Louisiana.

  73. Interesting subject.

    I’ve never heard of the fund, know nothing about the rules other than Cal. Rule of Court 10.102.
    http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/rules/index/cfm?title=ten&linkid=rule10_102

    That rule makes it clear that gifts may be given to and accepted by the AOC, subject to the constraints of the rule (and whatever other rules might come into play–I have no idea about them).

    I don’ t know if gifts can be earmarked for certain uses, or if a cash gift just goes into the general fund of the agency accepting the gift. If general fund, then the issue would become, I suppose, can the (now public) money be used to buy liquor and so forth.

    The fact that nobody knows the answer to these questions sort of suggests why the judiciary must be extremely careful about accepting gifts. They must be in the best interest of the state, the donor must be vetted to make sure no conflict of interest might arise, such as if the donor has cases before judges in the branch, etc.

    It is fairly obvious to me that it might look strange to a litigant if, for example
    Mr. X is a person who continually has business before the courts, and Mr. X, even if for noble purposes, decides to donate money to the AOC with the expectatation and knowledge that judges will be the eventual beneficiaries of the money.

    Very awkward for the judge. Mr. X walks in to a settlement conference with the judge, winks and says “Hear you are on the Council. Did you enjoy the wine? I provide it all, you know, and have for years. Love you guys on the Council”.
    Whoops! Recusal? Disclose in open court and obtain waiver? One or the other, at a minimum.

    It would probably depend upon whether the donor is a likely litigant, etc. as well as the nature of the gift. A gift of, say, a piece of art to hang in a public building by a retired lawyer with no business before the courts is probably no big deal. A gift by Joe Lawyer can be real trouble.

    It seems OK to me that public agencies from time to time need to entertain dignitaries, etc. and that this might well be in the best interest of the state. Food and a glass of wine might be provided as a matter of courtesy. However, buying wine and so forth for the Council if this occurs on a regular basis might be viewed more as a perk. Who knows. Again, I mention these things only to point out the potential difficulties.
    Judges are careful–who needs the headache of having to answer questions about a situation likely trivial, but that looks bad to people.

    I repeat, I know nothing at all about the specific fund/gift in question.

    Chuck Horan

    • That link printed out incorrectly. Here’s the rule:

      2010 California Rules of Court

      Rule 10.102. Acceptance of gifts

      (a) Administrative Director of the Courts’ authority to accept gifts

      The Administrative Director of the Courts may accept on behalf of any entity listed in (b) any gift of real or personal property if the gift and any terms and conditions are found to be in the best interest of the state. Any applicable standards used by the Director of Finance under Government Code section 11005.1 may be considered in accepting gifts.

      (Subd (a) amended effective January 1, 2007; adopted as unlettered subd; previously amended and lettered effective January 1, 2004.)

      (b) Delegation of authority

      The Administrative Director may delegate the authority to accept gifts to the following, under any guidelines established by the Administrative Office of the Courts:

      (1)The executive officer of a superior court, for gifts to the superior court;

      (2)The clerk/administrator of a Court of Appeal, for gifts to a Court of Appeal;

      (3)The clerk of the Supreme Court, for gifts to the Supreme Court; and

      (4)The Director of the Finance Division of the Administrative Office of the Courts, for gifts to the Judicial Council and the Administrative Office of the Courts.

      (Subd (b) amended effective January 1, 2007; previously adopted effective January 1, 2004.)

      Rule 10.102 amended and renumbered effective January 1, 2007; adopted as rule 989.7 effective September 13, 1991; previously amended and renumbered as rule 6.102 effective January 1, 2004.

      Top Of Page

  74. Thank you Judge Horan. You correctly identify the problem with judges accepting gifts.

    A friend of mine, now retired from our court, was so worried about this that he would not even buy a car from a dealership in San Diego County.

    When I asked him how he then purchased gas for this out of county car he replied that gas had a set price for everyone but a car had no set price and that someone might think he got a deal because he was a judge.

    This is, in my opinion, going to extremes but does illustrate to all of the non judges out there how worried we are about accepting any gift, of any amount, from anyone.

    That is why this Shapiro thing is so bothersome to us and needs prompt and honest answers from Chief Justice George and the AOC. For the sake of the honor of our branch of government I hope everything is copacetic.

    • Even stuff that seems trivial can be a problem. Like the lawyers who come by at Christmas and try to give candy to the clerks, leave it on the counter near the bench, etc. We had one in LA years ago (now long dead) who was just relentless and infamous for that. I can remember telling this guy more than once “We do NOT eat Jelly Beans in Dept. 108, Mr. W—-. And when we do, we buy them ourselves. Perhaps your client might like them, though.” lol We post notices in all of the courthouses warning clerks and everyone about the appearance issue, and they receive training about these issues, and there are rarely problems.
      Chuck Horan

    • Wendy Darling

      Promt and honest answers from the Chief Justice, Bill Vickrey, Ronald Overholt, and the AOC? … Dream on.

  75. So does all of this mean that Bill V should be filing the forms (whichever of the two mentioned here) on behalf of the AOC as “an agency”? Does the AOC qualify as an “agency” of the state since it is a branch of government? Also, the above reference by Judge Horan is a rule of court and states that the government code “may be considered”. It does not say they are required to. And my understanding of the CRC is they are just that and they do not carry the weight of statute that says someone “shall” do something.

    If the AG says he has no authority over the AOC, the JC, the CJ, the FPPC does? I am not fully convinced, based on the questions I have above.

    Mary Hart, when did the new rules for release of information get adopted (other than the existing Rule of Court that has been around for some time) and could you please provide us with the information? I thought a new rule relating to the release of information was still in progress, so I’d love to see it.

    • CF, The AOC is not a branch of government – it is an agency within the judicial branch.

      The Political Reform Act (pursuant to which the FPPC ws created and operates) does include the judicial branch within its jurisdiction and also specifies roles for the CJ, the APJs and trial court PJs relative to conflict of interest codes for personnel within their purview. It also states that the Judicial Council has responsibility for the AOC conflict of interest code.

    • The rule went into effect January 1, 2010. Anyone, from a child to a reporter, can request documentation regarding the Shapiro fund:

      http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/pubaccess.htm

  76. Judge Horan’s examples made me remember something interesting. The Chief Justice’s wife, interior decorator Barbara George, chair of the California Supreme Court Art Selection Committee, is responsible in part for the acquisition of the art that hangs in the AOC’s San Francisco offices. One of the works on display is an impressive large photograph by Andrew George, their artist son (from his “Light Leaks” series, the subject of the photograph is an expanse of blue floorboards). I do not mean to imply any impropriety, just an interesting aside that reflects how connections matter in government.

    • “Light Leaks” is very appropriate.

      “Our lives begin to end the day that we become silent about things that matter.”

      — Martin Luther King, Jr.

  77. Humm…Did Andrew George receive money for the photograph? If so, big problem. Did he donate it to the Supreme Court? If so, what wa

  78. Reader of the Complaint

    Courtflea: Court rules do usually carry the weight of a statute. (Evidence Code §§ 451-453; Gov. Code § 11343.6; and Agricultural Labor Relations Bd. v. Superior Court (1976) 16 Cal.3d 392, 401 [546 P.2d 687; 128 Cal.Rptr. 183] [“Where an administrative agency has adopted a regulation pursuant to the rulemaking authority delegated to it by the Legislature, the regulation has the force and effect of a statute”].)

  79. somehow my transmission got interrupted or I hit the wrong key or something.

    If Andrew George donated it to the Supreme Court one wonders what the value of the painting is and where the Supreme Court/Judicial Council/AOC list this as a gift.

    If it is a loan to the Supreme Court while his father is the Chief Judge and upon Justice George leaving the court the painting leaves also I cannot see a problem (maybe there is however, but I cannot see why this is so).

    What is this Supreme Court Art Selection Committee? What have they purchased? Where did they get the money to make purchases if they have made purchases?

  80. Thank you rleeree, reader of the complaint and Toni Maino for the clairifications. And sorry I misspoke about the AOC being a branch of government doh! Mea culpa.

  81. Composite Knuckles

    The AOC reads this blog, so they know that members of the judicial branch are now aware of payments that have made by the Shapiro foundation to the AOC. One would hope that someone in a role of leadership takes the time to alert every bench officer within the state and provide an explanation.

  82. Government Code 11005.1. The Director of Finance may accept on behalf of the State any gift of real or personal property whenever he deems such gift and the terms and conditions thereof to be in the best interest of the State.

    Did the AOC simply create a rule of court that gave them magical powers to accept gifts and not report them? They are a state agency that is under the jurisdiction of the laws of California.

  83. Wow thanks for the information on the new CRC Mary Hart! I have not read it all but there must be some “out” in there for the AOC 🙂

    • justinianscode

      CRC 10.500

      (f) Exemptions

      Nothing in this rule requires the disclosure of judicial administrative records that are any of the following:

      ***

      (11) Records whose disclosure would disclose the judicial branch entity’s or judicial branch personnel’s decision-making process, provided that, on the facts of the specific request for records, the public interest served by nondisclosure clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record; or

      (12) If, on the facts of the specific request for records, the public interest served by nondisclosure of the record clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record.

      ***

      (j) Public access disputes

      ***

      (2) Any person may institute proceedings for injunctive or declarative relief or writ of mandate in any court of competent jurisdiction to enforce his or her right to inspect or to receive a copy of any judicial administrative record under this rule.

  84. PS Mary Hart or others: does this mean that all information prior to this Jan. 1, 2010 CRC is exempt from the rule? I read that emails, texts, etc. were not subject to it prior to the implemenation of the rule, but the rest?

  85. PattyJaneSmith

    I hear the January 1, 2010 CRC is already under legislative scrutiny. I would guess that when the Legislature directed the JC to adopt the rule they intended the rule to be faithful to the Ca Public Records Act. The rule falls short and the Legislature is not happy. If I were the person in charge at the AOC I wouldn’t monkey around with requests for pre-January 1, 2010 information or even think about denying requests for information relating to the Shapiro Fund. I think someone should make the request and if you get denied let the Legislature know. Start the record about how open and transparent the AOC/JC is.

    • I so agree, PJS. Because the Shapiro Family Charitable Foundation’s 990 tax returns are public records, the AOC cannot play games with any questions about the Shapiro fund. I strongly believe that they have to return all of the money to the SCSF because they failed to comply with public disclosure laws that all state agencies in California must follow. To keep the money, or somehow justify a slush fund, only adds to an appearance of corruption. It will also further erode any credibility that judicial branch employees can expect to have with the Legislature, the press, or the public.

      • My apologies – I meant they should return the money to SFCF (Shapiro Family Charitable Foundation), which is a legally formed private foundation.

  86. The proof is clear that the AOC has received $76,500.00 from 2002 until 2008. There is really no doubt about that.

    What is not clear is whether or not these sums have been reported as seems required by law. Nor is it clear that these sums were brought to the attention of Justice Huffman who has been on the Judicial Council during this period. Nor is it clear whether or not any Judicial Council member in the period 2002 to 2008 knew about these sums.

    Then we proceed to what has happened to this large sum of money. It seems too great to have just purchased wine. What else did it purchase?

    We who work for the AOC( or even the courts) cannot request this information from the AOC or make a complaint to the proper authorities and reveal our name(s).
    The last person who revealed information without authorization was fired.

    We can only ask the Judicial Council and the AOC to keep their word and be open and honest.
    If these gifts from Mr. Shapiro are legitimate then the Judicial Council and the AOC should not hesitate to reveal the facts. Silence in the face of this serious accusation when one has the ability to respond will be seen as a possible admission of guilt. Hiding behind the new CRC and saying that it does not apply to anything before January 1,2010 will get the Judicial Council and the AOC nothing but a Bronx Cheer from the California Legislature, the press, and the public. A well deserved Bronx Cheer I might add.

  87. PJS, I wish you were in charge! But I bet that the AOC uses that ploy, but totally expects the trial courts to comply with the CRC. And Josh found the out!

    Sorry for all the posts fellow AOC Watcher readers, but this topic has been quite the source of interest for me. And getting my collegues perspectives and information has been fab.