Court Closure Day: Open Thread

Tomorrow is the Judicial Council’s meeting in San Francisco.  I know plenty has been said about the matter in other comment sections but feel free to discuss it as well in this open thread.  For that matter, feel free to discuss anything else you’d like that’s AOC related in this thread.

Aside from the storms now landing on California’s shores today, it’s also court closure day in case you’ve forgotten.  We’re now at the halfway mark with today being the sixth court closure day.  Now we just have another six to look forward to since we know the Judicial Council will recommend that we proceed with the rest of the planned court closures for the fiscal year 2009/2010.

71 responses to “Court Closure Day: Open Thread

  1. I’ll just start it off with a note of encouragement to ACJ. Demand that you be allowed to speak. I realize the decision has already been made but be sure to contact the major media such as TV and newspapers and get the message out that there is no rational reason to close courtrooms. The leaders of the CCMS project have been offered an alternative that could quickly be put into action but have declined to follow up on it. Let the public know that.
    They have been offered the opportunity to see, at no cost, in the way of a prototype, what could be done. They have declined to look. Make sure the public knows that.
    I doubt that anyone wanting to stop CCMS has any desire to harm or embarrass anyone. We just want to help and want to avoid catastrophic damage to the court system and to society. Make sure the public knows that.

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      The AOC has embarrased themselves by signing on to develop the most expensive privately developed publicly funded software on planet earth and did not choose one of its own approved vendors for this system. It approved deloitte who is not on the approved vendor list.

      They did the same with Jacobs and AGS. Neither of those companies was on any approved contractor lists but they chose them anyways – and in doing so embarrased themselves.

      In all cases you will find conflicts of interest at work.

      • Obi-Wan you are correct that they have embarrassed themselves but that doesn’t mean the process has to just keep running inexorably down the track toward the train wreck. It’s a big problem when you have publicly backed something and now realize you may eventually have to eat your words. But there are ways of getting out from under, as some politicians have demonstrated from time to time. You go from detractor to backer of an alternative solution that works. Point out that you were misled earlier.

        If Chief Justice George, Sheila Calabro, Bill Vickery, and others from the AOC and Judicial Council would sit down with me and let me help them, I would show them how to achieve the goal of uniform electronic trial court records. I would even show them how to bi-laterally share data with other courts and with associated justice agencies. None of them have any substantial knowledge of how to write modern software or how to address any of the myriad technical problems that might arise in an attempt to produce electronic court records and share them. They need help in a big way but so far have declined to accept it. Pride can be a real force of self-destruction. Sometimes in life we all need to back off and let someone help us with something we don’t understand.

        Chief Justice George and the others know who I am. So far they have declined all offers of help but there is always tomorrow. An entire solution could be put in place very quickly.

        And BTW, just picking a vendor off an “approved list” doesn’t mean much of anything. You still need to know – before putting out any money at all – that the final product is going to work and work well. It has to be fast for common tasks, has to share data well, has to be easy to use, must have no bugs, and should run on ordinary Windows PCs and be powered by widely available engines. Maintenance should be easy.

        Rather than focus on the possibility of conflicts of interest, I would focus on what I have seen in prior IT debacles – just plain old ignorance of technology by the people who are in charge of the money, coupled with embarrassment and refusals to admit the possibility of having made a mistake.

  2. As ComputerGeek mentioned in another post they are so “pot committed” on Court Closures, CCMS, expansion of the AOC, and not using court construction funds to operate the courts that they cannot back down. For those of us not into poker “post committed” means that they have put such a high percentage of their money into the pot that they cannot withdraw it even if they are holding what is probably a losing hand.
    We see this in the civil courts when the parties have spent so much money on discovery and motions that the case cannot settle but must go to trial.

    In addition, starting with the Chief Justice and going from there to Justice Huffman, Mr. Vickrey, Mr. Overholt and Ms Calabro they have such large egos that they cannot admit they might be wrong on anything. Therefore, for example, Ms. Calabro, who is in charge of CCMS which is over budget and very late in deployment, is given a raise. Therefore, they are going to give only 10 minutes of time to people who might want to question Court Closures. What they should do is to have extensive hearings on CCMS, Court Closures, the size and expense of the AOC, and the use of construction funds to run the courts.These things all need to be considered together. They will never do this.

    We can only hope that the Legislature does what the Judicial Council refuses to do: hold extensive hearings on this mess and put a good dose of sunshine on everyone and everything involved. Once the Legislature does this the Judicial Council is playing in the Legislative sandbox unstead of the current situation in which the Legislature, trial judges, the CJA, the clerks, the press, and the public are playing in the Judicial Council sandbox.

  3. Good observations, Diogenes. I don’t know Ms. Calabro personally so I don’t know the size of her ego but I do know that some politicians have, in the past, worked their way out of holes as deep as this when they have made huge mistakes in public.

    Johnny Cash sang it well. Got to know when to holdem and know when to foldem. But some people just can’t bring themselves to foldem and instead put more money into the pot. And really addicted gamblers often sell their houses because they’re sure that big winner is coming soon. CCMS is a bad gamble and even if it ever works reasonably well, it has already cost more than 100 times what it shoud cost.

    I like the sandbox analogy. If you want this to be played out in the Legislature’s sandbox, write to Assemblyman Hector De La Torre and Assemblywoman Audra Strickland. They know who I am and what I offered to do. Ask them to follow up right away on what they have been advised by others to do.

    • Kenny Rogers sang The Gambler, not Johnny Cash.

      More than just a legal beagle,
      Tim Fall
      Judge, Yolo Superior Court

  4. ConcernedReConsolidation

    Mary raised an important point on the 15th: AOC policy of consolidation appears to be strongly driven by policy plans coming from the National Center for State Courts. CJ George was the Chairman back in 2004 when the plans for consolidation first became apparent. Since this has been a slow progression of consolidation for many years, it is unlikely policy-makers will make an about-face without substantial pressure from local judges and the Legislature. Additionally, if consolidation is successful, it is likely it will be touted as a model for other states.

  5. Hey, Judge Fall, How are you? What can I say? I’m sure you’re right.

    I hope ACJ is planning to appear in force tomorrow. Get the press out there. SacBee. Channel 13, Sam Shane, Mike Luery, etc. If the Chief and the AOC would just accept help, the problems would go away. Maybe public pressure is the only way.

  6. you got to know when to hold em
    know when to fold em
    know when to walk away
    know when to run….

    The AOC should take Kenny Rodger’s advice. However, the observation that their egos are to big to do so is correct and if CCMS went away what would Sheila do?

  7. justacourtworker

    I am not sure if anyone has already mentioned this — isn’t this taxpayer money? Couldn’t indictments be in order here? Isn’t this fraud? Spending money with no oversight, giving these raises for poor performance? Reminds me of AIG. There has to be some criminal angle here. Maybe it needs to be explored. The AOC is funding their fun stuff and screwing the public out of a properly funded court system. Sort of like stealing the investors’ money and fattening up your own pockets.

  8. She could go back to just being administrator of the Southern Regional Office.

    Does anyone know how she got picked to head up the CCMS project? Did someone think she knew something about computers? Writing software?

  9. As a lowly courtroom worker, I first of all want to say that I cannot get enough of this jaw-dropping blogspot. It has been a godsend. Thanks and a shout-out to the “creator” and to all the articulate and knowledgeable people who post here.

    My court was one of the hardest hit, with 70+ layoffs and 10 mandatory furlough days imposed upon us in the last fiscal year, even before the edict for the one-day-a-month court closures in this one.

    We have been in an eight-week jury trial. Closing arguments ended Tuesay at 4:10 p.m. Anyone could see from the jurors’ faces and body language their frustration at having a closure day today instead of being able to begin their deliberations.

    How unfair to all the litigants, complaining witness(es), and especially our citizen jurors willing to do their civic duty but having their lives hampered even more because of these non-cost-saving court closure days. It is a travesty on so many levels.

    The inmates are running the asylum.

  10. Just another article on budgets and red light cameras:

    Also, if anyone is interested in the Shapiro fund, the real keeper of that checkbook is Peppermint Patty in Accounting. She pays for all the drinks!

    • Composite Knuckles

      Are you saying that Pat Haggerty distributes the funds received from the Shapiro foundation? Drinking and gift baskets are not a legitimate government purpose, nor are they goals or purposes of the AOC. WTF was all that money used for?

      Will someone on the Council please ask for an explanation on Thursday regarding the Shapiro fund? Do it in closed session if you must, but please, ask. You represent the branch.

  11. Nathaniel Woodhull

    You would think that the Chief & JC would learn from the experience of others. Clearly, the Chief became enamored with Deloitte Financial Advisory Services when he was palling around back at the NCSC in 2003. The path then chosen was being pitched to many states by many vendors. The following article describes Indiana Court’s experience is trying to develop a state-wide computer system that would be all things to all people. They are going crazy because the cost estimates for “Odyssey” are approaching $100million, and it still won’t work. Competitors in Indiana say that their systems work just fine for pennies on the dollar being spent for the new system.

    Maybe we need a catchy name for our system. Instead of CCMS we could call it Colossus or Guardian?

    Enjoy the article from:

    Statewide Court Computer System Languishing

    by Doug on July 15, 2009

    Niki Kelly, writing for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, has an article about the state’s long running, expensive, and, so far, not terribly successful, efforts to implement a state-wide computer system for its courts. (h/t Indiana Law Blog).

    The project is now at least seven years old and has no firm completion date or budget.

    Plans to computerize records and link more than 400 civil and criminal courts around Indiana started in 2002. But after spending millions of dollars, only a few dozen courts in nine counties have hooked on.

    Senator Kenley plans to take a look at what is going on. Ironically, the court computer system is named “Odyssey.” Readers might recall the Odyssey as a tale where the hero wanders for 10 years just to get back home.

    The goal of the project is ambitious: equip all Indiana courts and clerks with a 21st-century computer system to manage cases. The system will also connect the various court systems with one another, as well as police, state agencies and the public.

    This might be part of the problem — a desire to make the system all things to all people. One day it might get implemented and be pretty slick, but mainly it’s been something that lawyers and courts have been aware was in the works but not making any discernible progress. That impression probably isn’t entirely accurate. Some version of it has been rolled out in a few counties – DeKalb, Floyd, Monroe, Tipton, and Warren.

    One of the big problems was hiring Computer Associates, initially. They and their software couldn’t do the job, and that contract was canceled in 2005. But, even that’s getting to be ancient history. Tyler Technologies is now working on the project and has apparently been paid $5.5 million of the $7.7 million it’s to be paid for software licensing. The money comes out of a $7 document filing fee paid in most civil and criminal cases. Those fees generate about $7 million in revenue per year. The Chief Justice asked for the fee to be raised this year, but the General Assembly declined.

    Another problem is that data currently being accumulated on existing county court systems will have to be made compatible with the new system. The longer the delays in implementing the new system, the tougher this problem becomes. In fact, I believe some counties held off on implementing computer systems at all for fear of having wasted money when the state system came along. I believe White County, for example, held off on computerizing its operations for a long time out of this fear. If memory serves, the Computer Associates contract cancellation marked the point at which White County could no longer keep waiting. According to the Journal Gazette article, LaGrange County seems to have been in much the same situation.

    But here is an interesting wrinkle:

    Mathias and DePrez acknowledged others are resisting as well. “Nobody likes change,” Mathias said. “Some are concerned because we are trying to build a system that enforces statutes and rules.”

    For instance, he said some counties ignore a requirement to calculate interest on judgments, while others calculate interest in a different manner. Odyssey will standardize those and other facets of the system.

    The part about interest on judgments is true. Every civil money judgment in Indiana accrues interest at the rate of 8% per year by statute. Most courts don’t track interest at all and simply have the judgment holder keep track. If there is some dispute between judgment creditor and debtor on the subject of interest, courts will entertain a hearing on the matter, but mostly there aren’t any disputes. But, some courts have been known to give judgment creditors a hard time about seeking to be paid for interest on the judgment and require arbitrary procedures be followed to have it imposed. Or, occasionally, Clerks’ offices will tell judgment debtors they have paid in full when they haven’t accounted for judgment interest.

    Another issue where courts seem to diverge widely – and this might be an aside because I don’t know if the Odyssey system would fix this – is on the subject of charging for postage on sending out orders. For example, if I want to compel a judgment debtor to appear at a Proceeding Supplemental (a hearing where the judgment debtor appears and testifies to his or her income and assets), some courts are requiring pre-paid postage for sending out orders. Some are requiring the postage involved when sending it from their court to an out-of-county Sheriff. Really, they can be all over the map without any obvious authority or at least no local court rules having been promulgated. Uniformity in a lot of these cases would be welcome, though I don’t suspect you really need a terrifically expensive computer system to get it.

  12. Delilah, I’m guessing you work in a courtroom in Alameda County, my old stomping grounds. If you could, would you be willing to work with me on a prototype of court system software? What I need is input by courtroom clerks, those familiar with the central clerk’s office, and other courthouse personnel, including judges. Easy to use prototype software could be created in days with such input and testing. And if I had input from potentially associating agencies such as the sheriff, police, CDCR, etc. I could write software for cross-access and transfers. I can do this conservatively somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 times as fast as Deloitte, and with zero or few coding errors.
    Interested? Know others who might be?

    • ComputerGeek: I must say that I find your hijacking of this blog for your own personal marketing purposes to be distasteful. I would guess that others agree.

      • Composite Knuckles

        If you are truly a judge, then please use your real name. If you are not a judge, then please don’t elevate yourself (even anonymously) or give smart people in the branch who read here a false impression that you are an officer of the court. Thank you.

      • I am Judge_Dredd. I didn’t realize that this blog had a username selection policy. Also, I don’t see that who or what I am matters to anything. Consider me a concerned member of the legal community, OK? Assume I’m not a judge, not an AOC employee, not a court employee, and not a member of the Judicial Council. Just a guy who has to deal with the legal system a lot who is concerned with (a) the cost and management (or lack thereof) of CCMS, (b) efforts to take the court system back to what I consider to be the VERY bad old days of “58 flavors,” and (c) civil, rational discourse about issues of public concern.

        Nice to meet you!

      • Composite Knuckles

        And you as well, non-judge. Thank you.

      • In the spirit of asking, are you Assemblymember Feuer? Someone on his staff? Someone who was involved in drafting AB 714?

    • Composite Knuckles

      No. Just another concerned member of the California judicial branch who can throw and take a punch. Welcome to you. If you promote civility and discourse, we are very much aligned.

      • I do, and thus we are.

      • And I will just state simply that I am an attorney who also writes computer software. And I would hate to see the court system implode because funds are misdirected to an overpriced IT project.

  13. And Justacourtworker, how about you? Work in the clerk’s office? Have a Windows PC with Microsoft Office on it? Willing to be an inputter and tester?
    For anyone curious, I can write this stuff so fast you probably can’t test it as fast as I can write it. Deloitte is headed way in the wrong direction. Easy to use software could be created very quickly. Then it’s up to ACJ to slap it down on someone’s desk and demand that it be used.

  14. Judge Dredd, are you interesed in a solution to the CCMS problem? I don’t see anyone else stepping forward with a solution but I’ve heard an awful lot of complaints about CCMS and cries for help.

    • I think there’s a way to suggest that alternate providers exist who can deliver the same functionality as CCMS for less money without self-promoting at every turn. Your position is that you personally could do a better job than Deloitte – we get it.

    • But also, I’m just one person. I’ve said my piece; if others here want to continue to hear your sales pitch, it’s no skin off my nose. Just wanted to point out that the message may be getting lost in the marketing.

      • justinianscode

        Agreed. I like ComputerGeeks’ info, but it appears to be overwhelmed at times in the marketing.

      • Actually I offered to Chief Justice George and Sheila Calabro and some others to do a prototype for FREE. Don’t get too hung up on the “marketing” angle that Dredd created. I’m more concerned about the courts imploding.

  15. Delilah:

    There is no such thing as a “lowely clerk”. As a judge I can tell with you, without any doubt whatsoever, that we judges rely very much on the intelligence, honesty, hard work, and good humor of the clerks of our court. Each one of you is vital to the operation of this branch of government.

    Your remarks about the jury being upset by a mid-week closure is exactly what happened in a recent trial in our court.

    Thanks for your participation in this blog.

    • Same thing happens to me every trial that has a mandatory closure week in it, Judge Maino. And since my present assignment is exclusively lengthy criminal trials, this is just about every trial I do.

      Tim Fall
      Judge, Yolo Superior Court

  16. Nathaniel Woodhull

    California Court News the television production unit of the AOC posted the Judicial Council’s visit to Orange County on 12-1-09 to inspect the progress of CCMS. Paul Robinson of Deloitte protests that we are at a “tipping point, almost there.” The Chief said it was important to replace the electronic tower of babel being used in the 58 courts. There are 512 people working on this project, the manual is 18,000 pages long and the system has 4,600 identified requirements that it must perform. According to Pravda, I’m sorry I meant CCN, 25% of the system is already up and running and it should be operational in SLO, Ventura and San Diego Counties in the next few months. Admitting that this new system costs more than existing systems, the piece says it is still important to transition.
    Not a very reassuring presentation.

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi


      Befitting for the office of disinformation.

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      One would believe that other courts would be listening to the alarm bells ringing from the Sacramento courts.

      If it doesn’t work there, you don’t move on to another county until it does work there. If this alone isn’t touched on, this 1.75 billion dollar fiasco could turn into a 10 billion dollar fiasco.

      Where is common sense in all of this? Sacramento Courts already claim it costs a million dollars extra per year to run this slow system that doesn’t operate as designed.

      • There are sound reasons why Sacramento had problems. A 10 billion dollar situation is easily possible because they are chasing rainbows.

  17. Obi-Wan Kenobi

    512 people working on any software development project means 500 do something besides develop yet are paid developers wages.

    Anyone who has managed software development projects (and I have managed a few hundred) knows that this amount of feet on the ground is impossible to manage and there is likely a core group of developers with all of the others sitting around and getting paid 40 bucks an hour so deloitte can get paid 300 per hour for each and every one of those (mostly H1B) people that would never blow the whistle out of fear of job loss and getting shipped back to India.

    We still prefer the CCMS X-Prize.

  18. justacourtworker: As mentioned throughout this site, there is no one that has jurisdiction over the California Judicial Branch. Not the AG nor the Feds. So you wont be seeing any indictments. Except as Mary Hart mentioned maybe for not filling out their gift acceptance forms properly.

    The only hope is that the legislature will change that but I expect even if they did, the Judicial Branch (i.e. the CJ and the AOC) would fight that control/oversight tooth and nail.

    • Wendy Darling

      An entire branch of State government which has no administrative oversight or enforceable accountability, not even from the State Attorney General’s office, or the Feds, that controls hundreds of millions of dollars annually in public money, controls its governing board by political appointment, authorizes open-ended single-source, no-bid public works contracts without any outside review or approval, slush funds and secret pay raises and promotions for selected favorites while court houses are being closed to the public, flagrantly breaks the law, disdains and disregards public input or discussion, silences and intimidates its critics by abusing its authority and power and derailing careers, punishes and retaliates against its employees who speak up against the abuse and misconduct, and no one can do anything about it. And to top it all off, it’s the Judicial Branch, with the Chief Justice leading the charge in defense of all this unbelieveable and indefensible conduct.

      And people wonder why the legal profession has such a bad reputation and why there is such a loss of confidence in the court system.

      And if the Judicial Branch “didn’t exist” before Ronald George became the Chief Justice in 1996, then maybe we were all better off that way and he shouldn’t be returned to his current office in November. Because if the State Attorney General and the Feds and the State Legislature don’t have the political will or integrity to do something to say enough is enough, then apparently it’s going to have to be the voting public and taxpayers who are being lied to and stolen blind to do something.

      Because if Ronald George is returned to the office of the Chief Justice in November, then we have accepted all of this appalling conduct and we will deserve whatever happens as a result.

    • justacourtworker

      thank you courtflea. I am new here and haven’t read through everthing, but I’m working on it. (in between coming home exhaused after a furlough week and trying to get all of the work done)

  19. PS and if the Fair Political Practices Commission gets them justaworker, it more than likely will just be fines.

    • Mr. Flea: The fines may be small or large, but the FPPC will move on judges, politicians or agency officials. See today’s LA Times:

      26 lawmakers admit not disclosing gifts
      January 20, 2010 | 4:37 pm
      At least 26 state legislators have admitted they failed to report accepting gifts from lobbying groups and will pay fines for violating financial reporting laws.

      The fines are the first penalties revealed as part of an investigation by the state’s political watchdog agency into suspicions that 38 state lawmakers – including Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) — and 15 staff members failed to disclose gifts. The gifts included sports and concert tickets, meals, spa treatments and hotel rooms; those who gave included a casino, horse-racing track, union, bank and various other interest groups.

      The investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission, one of the most extensive in recent years, involves much of the leadership of the Legislature, according to state records.

      The fines range from $200 to $1,000 each; those who have agreed to pay include Bass, Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez, Senate Minority Leader Dennis Hollingsworth (R-Murrieta), Senate Minority Leader-elect Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga) and Assembly Majority Whip Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco).

      “They absolutely should know better,” said Bob Stern, president of the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies. He said it was not surprising that so many leaders are involved. “Those in power get more goodies than those not in power. The wealthy get wealthier,” Stern said.

      — Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

  20. Composite Knuckles

    One would hope it would not get to the point of the FPPC imposing fines. Because if they do impose fines it’s after an investigation and they can hold individuals responsible for payment, and it gets a great deal of negative press attention. See example below:

    FPPC Fines Council Member
    January 12, 2005|Patrick McGreevy, Times Staff WriterLos Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas and two political aides face $35,000 in fines for failing to disclose expenses charged to his state political committee, including $17,000 paid to a golf course and golf equipment firm, officials said Tuesday.

    Cardenas said the $87,956 in expenses cited in the violation involved costs of serving as a state assemblyman through 2002, including bills for a golf tournament, gift bags and greens fees that were part of a political fundraising event.

  21. Composite Knuckles

    The requirement that a gift to an agency be used for “official agency business” is fairly self explanatory. The payment must be used for a legitimate governmental purpose and must assist the agency in carrying out its mission, programs or goals. The payment may not be for an activity unrelated to the official responsibilities of the agency.

    Fair Political Practices Commission
    1-866-ASK-FPPC – 1-866-275-3772

  22. Nathaniel Woodhull

    I for one appreciate your participation and point of view. Understand that it is frustrating for those of us who have been around for decades that we have a Chief who has publicly stated that the Judicial Branch didn’t exist before he became CJ in 1996. I was present in 2003 when he publicly stated that any attempt to democratize the JC would be a declaration of war.
    I get the argument about having 58 courts running in opposite directions, but mandating a one-size fits all system without free and open discussion doesn’t work either. In many instances the proposals would take some of us backwards.
    It has been made very clear to us that if you express dissent or question a mandate your career and aspirations for higher office is done. I don’t recall having the same feeling under Chief Justice Lucas or even (gulp) Chief Justice Bird.
    As for CCMS, here is my understanding of the history. In 2000, Gray Davis and the Chief discussed a new computer system. In 2002, 6 So.Cal. counties were to participate in a pilot program. In 2003, the JC said expand the project to 58 counties. No business plan or feasibility study was ever commissioned. There was never a determination of what this new system was supposed to do. In 2003, Bearingpoint was hired to make a web-based version of the old 1997 Vision system (criminal and traffic system from Ventura). Deloitte was brought in to handle another phase of development with civil, probate and small claims. In 2006, Bearingpoint tanks and Deloitte takes over the criminal and traffic system. When that system was installed in Fresno, it crashed so much they pulled it. In 2006, Deloitte received a $99mil no bid contract for the final phase of the project. An outside consultant finally prepared a business model in late 2007. This was for the system that was supposed to be running in all 58 counties by September 2006.
    The powers at be have made clear that in their minds, the system development is on-track and “works beautifully”. They have also made clear that they do not want any contrary opinions expressed, publicly or privately. That makes it a little difficult to engage in a constructive dialog about how to fix the deficiencies in the system or are we better off taking our losses and starting over. They are on track to spend $1mil per judicial officer on this system. Much of what they now tout as being integrated into the system are things I would never use and didn’t want in the first place.
    Any contrary views are welcome.

    • Nathaniel Woohull

      I think that is a pretty accurate account of the CCMS saga. It should be noted that in 2000 the AOC put together and the JC approved a plan for IT development that was apparently abandoned in 2002 or 2003 when the decision to go forward with CCMS was made. It is unclear who made that decision, as is the basis of the decision.

      In 2002 several vendors were certified for use in California. However, the AOC refused to fund any of those systems after making the vendors go through a very rigorous approval process.

      When discussing the merits of CCMS, I think the threshhold issue should be whether the AOC can afford it. Where is the funding for the remaining $1 billion (at least) going to come from? If the AOC cannot answer that question, the project should be immediately suspended. To continue to spend money on the development of the system if there is no reasonable expectation the AOC will ever be able to afford statewide implementation, is a waste of taxpayer money.

      I know the AOC has already spent $400 million on the system. The AOC did so knowing it lacked adequate funding. The AOC’s financing plan appeared to be to spend as much as possible so when they ran out of money they could go to the legislature and argue that if they don’t get more, the investment would be wasted. That is not a funding problem. That is a leadership/management problem.

      Because there is, and always has been a significant funding shortfall, it is irresponsible to continue to spend money on CCMS, regardless of it capabilities (which remain a huge question). The functionality of the system really doesn’t become an issue until the AOC can establish it has the funds necessary to deploy the system.

      I hope the JC members aren’t pesuaded by the AOC’s argument that it is only because of the economic downturn that they are unable to go forward with CCMS. The economy is not the cause of the lack of funding. A system that costs more than the AOC could ever afford is the reason the AOC is $1.o billion short.

      • Obi-Wan Kenobi

        We couldn’t agree more moneywatcher but wish to add food for thought- The spend-it-as-fast-as-possible concept is also happening in court construction.

        When the GSA (the feds) builds a courthouse, they do so for less than $300.00 per square foot.

        When the AOC builds a courthouse, they do so for about $1,000.00 per square foot. There is a race to spend those 1407 funds as fast as possible and at any expense.

    • NW: I think we may actually be on the same page. I’m probably one of the last people here who would rush to defend CCMS or its current management structure. It sounds like the greatest thing since sliced bread on paper, but you have to wonder in jaw-dropped amazement at the cost and time to implement.

      My point about the “58 flavors” was more directed to the fact that this blog seems to encompass numerous points of view, the only common thread of which is “the AOC is the bad guy.” What I was saying is that I agree with the CCMS critics, but I do NOT agree with those judges and court (and union) representatives who are trying to move complete self-governance back to the individual trial courts. While the AOC isn’t perfect, I think the overarching concept of centralized administrative oversight/control over the trial courts is a GOOD thing, not a bad thing. I remember too well things like “bluebacks” in LA and a multiplicity of different fee schedules across the state (which actually continues to this day, despite the AOC’s efforts at standardization — anyone but me remember the controversy over LA’s online search fees from a couple of years ago???).

      I referenced this once a couple of weeks ago by referring to “strange bedfellows.” In my perfect world, the CCMS discussion (including whether there needs to be Legislative oversight of spending on that project) would be divorced from the discussion about things like “trial courts’ bills of rights” and the like. Frankly, I personally think that practicing law in California generally has become better, not worse, since trial court funding in the late 1990’s, even with closures. I wouldn’t trade 2010 for 1990 for the world.

  23. Composite Knuckles

    Thank you for posting J.D. There are wonderful people and programs at the AOC, and I don’t want anyone to lose sight of that. There are also clear needs for an administrative agency to assist an entire state court system. This is also a time — more than ever — when every voice needs to be heard. Because there is such limited time to present before the Council, this forum provides people in leadership positions with important information and points of view. I do agree that people need to be civil and respectful.

    I have noticed that the level of discussion has grown to include everyone from judges to clerks to people who work in the AOC. As long as the overall goal is the well-being of the branch, I don’t have any problem with any point of view or suggestions presented. The Judicial Council needs to hear all of this.

  24. Thanks Nathaniel for sharing Indiana’s telling experience with trying to develop a statewide computer system and Your discussion of the history of CCMS. I remain dismayed that the CJ and JC have chosen to close our courts so they can fund a computer system that is flawed and will be out of date whenever it hits all 58 courts. I for one urge the JC to delay any decision on continuing court closures for at least 1 month. At that time the JC should convene a full open hearing about all related budget issues, court closures,CCMS, and use of court house construction funds. The hearing should not limit input from the wide variety of citizens, legislators, Judges, court employees and other governmental agencies that work with our branch.( This in contrast to the JC’s decision to limit all public comment at the 1-21-2010 meeting to ten minutes total!) After receiving such public comment the JC should then discuss or even debate the ideas presented to them and consider whether the local courts should decide what combination of solutions best serves the needs of that court. Such an approach would be the first step in democratizing the Judicial Council which is the long term solution to the problems we currently face.

  25. Obi-Wan Kenobi

    I’m not going to agree with everyone on this board about everything but the difference here is I can hear out their opinions and they can hear mine out. I don’t think anyone is advocating going back to the old ways. Universally, everyone is saying the new ways are a colossal waste of public funds and the leadership should be held responsible for their failures, most especially because they refuse to own up to them.

    Every day a prisoner sits in front of a parole board and his only ticket out is to own up to his mistakes to society.

    It should be no different for those in power in the AOC that are responsible for colossal failures and an unprecedented waste of public funds. Own up to them and change them or find your ass out on the street come this time next year – or sooner if someone shows an interest in prosecuting these matters.

    The AOC management has spent their political capital and they have nothing coming without change.

  26. I believe the references about going back to local control were made in an effort to HAVE some control, and most importantly oversight. Since the AOC is running amok and unfortunately, in my humble opinion, is not in the best interest of the branch. No one here wants to go back to the old days of local control = every judges courtroom in the state demanded different rules. No way! But you all keep forgetting that CEOs have been demanding best practices throughout the state for the benefit of counsel, staff, the public, etc., for many many years. But that is not a priority for the CJ, JC or the Council, they have made that very clear. Their goal is power.

    Composite Knuckles, I am glad you approve of democracy on this blog. The most important input I have ever received in order to improve court operations have come from court users and staff.

    • The “local local” rules in each courtroom were, and to some degree still are, a problem. But, even the 58 different varieties of local rules and especially fees in each of the 58 courts was also a problem, IMHO. Again, I’m just one person, but to me it’s hard to justify to an attorney with a statewide practice or even a litigant why it should cost more to file a document in LA than in, say, Alpine. Or why in LA you have to staple your papers to a blue piece of paper. Or why it costs money to search online court records in LA but it’s free in Alameda. How can you argue that that such a system, which allows the local courts to “do their own thing,” is in the best interest of the public generally?

      • Composite Knuckles

        This is a great topic for discussion. Forms and fees and procedures should be uniform all through the state (more like the DMV, and less like election ballots). But there also needs to be a balance where local courts have flexibility to provide services to match their constituents’ needs, without worrying about a few people at the top losing perspective. I like the democracy concept, especially if it promotes good thinking.

  27. Well another sad court closure day. A largely empty courthouse closed to our citizens and loyal employees. Instead we are paying billions for a case management system . Does any of this make sense ? The Chief’s Tower of Babel comment is very troubling. Our court computer system works just fine . Most importantly it serves the needs of the many citizens we serve in a cost effective way. There is a pattern here and an assumption that state centralized control is always an improvement to what we do at the local level. Court closures prove that premise wrong indeed. Tomorrow is a huge day- lets hope the JC has the courage to act and bring an end to court closures as soon as possible.

  28. Nathaniel Woodhull

    The Judicial Council meeting on the 21st was audio cast with an attendant transcription. If the transcript was prepared by voice recognition software, similar to that being pushed to replace court reporters, I cite that as “Exhibit 1” why we should never give up our court reporters. The “transcript” of the audio cast was so bad it was laughable…

  29. And yet, I have seen a transcript that was prepared electronically from an electronic digital multi-track recording that was absolutely flawless. Bear in mind that the Judicial Council folks are absoutely clueless when it comes to electronics. Voice recognition software is not ready for prime time and may not be for many, many years.

  30. curious georgette

    Due to a prior commitment, I was unable to listen to the meeting today. Will someone please provide the highlights?

  31. Obi-Wan Kenobi

    I have to congratulate the council for allowing all of the many speakers their 3 minutes and for a spirited discussion. In the end as my friend Yoda always says, “puppets they are” and puppets is how they voted, while feigning that they should look at every imaginable option to come up with a mere 30 million dollars to keep the courts open.

    Their main excuse for voting for continued closures was that they went to the legislature and asked for special legislation “and how would it look if we reversed ourselves”

    I thought I lived in America, not some third world country.

    Nobody bought what the Judicial Council was selling. Nobody. Not the unions, not the press, not the judges in the audience – nobody.

  32. justinianscode

    “Their main excuse for voting for continued closures was that they went to the legislature and asked for special legislation ‘and how would it look if we reversed ourselves’”

    How would it look? How would it look?!

    It would look like you thoughtfully considered your course and made the necessary corrections. That’s how it would look.

  33. Obi-Wan Kenobi

    It appeared universally that all speakers opposed the continued closures, with the state bar saying it only looked for uniformity statewide. Even some judicial council members voiced concerns about continued closures and I thought there would be a vote that actually had meaning, like people had deliberated and thought about this. That was the gist of the conversation around the great roundtable. And in the end, even those I thought would vote against closures either voted for closures or abstained.

  34. not to be devisive here, but I have yet to see a perfect court reporters transcript! Often, court reporters will “clean up” in a transcript what judges say and will miss things as well. While neither recording or court reporters are perfect, I’d bet my money on technology in the future, rather than human error. Not to mention some court reporters get pretty greedy, especially in high publicity crminal cases. Remember what the court reporters were charging per page for side bar conferences in the OJ Simpson trial? And don’t even get me going on the court not owning the original transcript after paying for it, from their own employees!!

  35. Obi-Wan Kenobi

    ABC News videotaped the whole thing.

    Apparently they are doing a story on the AOC at the end of this month.

  36. It didn’t really seem fair to me that the CJ cut-off Judge Lampe when he brought up issues not directly related to court closures, but then let JC members go on explaining why they thought Judge Lampe was off base on those same issues.

    I agree with others confused with the “how would it look if we reversed oursleves” argument. If that is the rationale, it begs the question of why schedule the meeting at all. Wasn’t whether the initial decision should be reversed an issue the JC thought might come up when that was the very same issue listed on the agenda.

    I expect the elected officials who went out on a political limb when supporting the closures, would be relieved if the JC reversed course.

    If they all had Judge McCoy’s letter in front of them as part of the packet, why wasn’t there any meaningful discussion of re-allocating SB 1407 money? His letter was pretty direct. The LA judges tapped danced around the issue, but literally sounded afraid to come out and address it directly. And why abstain?? What’s the conflict?? You already came out and said you didn’t support closures.

    If you weren’t cynical before the meeting, you should be now.

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      Right after Judge Lampe mentioned the word Governance no less. Pathetic. The point was that the AOC has the money to keep closures from happening and no one was permitted to make that point.

      Nobody bought the kool-aid. Not the media, not the unions, not the other judges, nobody.

  37. CourtFlea – do you really want to open that can of worms about court reporters versus electronic recordings? You preface your comments with “not to be decisive” yet all of your comments do create division and to me are offensive and irrelevant to the discussion this blog is dedicated to. There is much I can say here in defense of the hard working court reporters who charge what they are statutorily authorized to do.There are valid and reasonable reasons why reporters own the transcripts. Clearly, you aren’t entirely informed about the court reporting profession. None of us is entirely informed about each other or our professions on this blog, but let us not start calling each other names like greedy because next we know someone will start talking about lazy AOC employees or an incompetent court administrator. I urge everyone to keep their eyes on the prize which is some meaningful change with respect to how the judiciary is administered. And please, civility should be accorded to all whether you agree with their statements or not whether you like a person’s profession or not.

  38. CourtFlea – one more thing since I’m still smarting a bit about the greedy court reporter comment….transcript rates for official court reporters have not increased in almost 20 years. Ok, that is it and now I will refocus on the topic this blog is dedicated to.

  39. Wow ABC taped the entire council meeting? That should be interesting to see how they report on it. I am glad the media is waking up to the process and showing some interest!

  40. FWIW, the court reporter v. electronics controversy doesn’t have to end badly or have a bad outcome at all. With modern technology, the process would look different but those currently employed as court reporters would become transcribers. They would create electronic transcripts that could have many modern and useful features. After all, these are the people with the specialized knowledge and experience that would support incredibly well the creation of good electronic transcripts. They would each handle more cases than previously, there would be fewer people employed in the process of producing the electronic transcripts, and the incomes of the vast majority of those who are presently court reporters would be about the same.

    The transition could be very civil and pretty much devoid of acrimony if people would consider the possibilities objectively but it all depends on whether people in the system are willing to adapt to the new age of electronics. The resulting electronic transcripts of oral proceedings could be transmitted from point A to point B without delay, virtually without cost (no shipping costs), and could be stored in tiny areas in places that need them like courthouses, lawyers’ offices, and backup storage areas.

    Note carefully that some of the savings in costs (personnel, storage, shipping, etc.) could be redistributed to support keeping clerks employed to serve the public and to keeping courtrooms open. It could all work out very well, but it requires adapatation to the new era of electronics.

    I have already created some of the specialty software required as well as techniques for integrating the resulting product into an all-electronic trial court record. And I have created much of the specialized software required to actually replace CCMS and even tested some of it on average (i.e. not computer geeks) people who had no difficulty with it.

    Transition to electronic clerk’s transcripts (ECTs) and to electronic oral proceedings transcripts (EOPTs) is now no further out there on the spectrum than people just agreeing to do it. Court calendars could be prepared quickly, all pleadings could be stored electronically, probation reports could be electronic, connections to records from CDCR could be electronic. Prosecutors, defense counsel, probation officers and others could have easy access to needed records and cross-access and cross-exchanges could occur between all necessary parties. Most of the technology required to do the basics has already been developed and is sitting on the computer being used to write this note.

    But I stayed away from even suggesting to others any transition now to all-electronic transcripts of oral proceedings because the people involved are currently so antagonistic to each other it would be like stepping into the middle of a cat fight and getting clawed. If the interested parties are willing to adapt and use modern Microsoft tools created specially for them, and available to all associated parties at no cost to them, the answer to all this is sitting right in front of me. Right now.

    So do you do like the man on the coastline whose house is being inundated by the rising seas and scream and shout and demand the ocean recede or do you move to higher ground, adapting to the changing environment?

  41. Thank you, WiseEmployee. I agree that this is not the place to start trashing court reporters and go off topic by trying to debate the merits of ER vs CRs. That battle is ongoing elsewhere, amongst parties more knowledgeable on both sides of the issue than most participants here. I too would hate to see this discussion fly off the rails instead of staying firmly on the tracks towards the intended destination.

    Speaking of. Can anyone tell us if there is a scheduled meeting date for the next Assembly Accountability Committee and the AOC? I would not want to miss it.