Open Thread: Discuss January 21st Judicial Council Meeting

I’ve started this open thread for those of you wishing to discuss today’s Judicial Council meeting.  I’ll be posting articles and links to audio as soon as they become available.

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40 responses to “Open Thread: Discuss January 21st Judicial Council Meeting

  1. Somebody please post what happened? Or didn’t happen? Had to work, and haven’t heard a word. Thanks!

  2. Obi-Wan Kenobi

    Puppets, they were. Any questions?

  3. Obi-Wan Kenobi

    It started out with 6 speakers who each got 3 minutes each. Then what appeared to be a vigorous discussion about the merits of court closure ensued with statements like the judicial council should turn over every rock to find the funding, etc. The newer members of the council were the ones providing the resistance to closure and the turning over every rock statements. It was projected that the next 5 closure days would cost the council 30 million dollars and pray tell, they just couldn’t find 30 million dollars in their bloated CCMS budget or the 32 million dollars they sued AGS and Jacobs over to fund the remaining 5 days – or the money they have not been paying them since december 7th.

    In the end, the puppets prevailed.

    On a good note, KGO-TV is doing a story on the AOC at the behest of the ACJ at the end of this month.

    • Thanks – I was curious about how the ’10’ minutes went. I did figure it would overall be the puppet show like you said.

  4. Composite Knuckles

    I have to say that I enjoyed hearing judges and court reporters and attorneys speak to the Council as part of the public comment. People who work in the courts are voters, taxpayers and they care greatly about their jobs and provision of services.

    It seemed that the Chief was upset when Judge Lampe mentioned the AOC raises. Although not directly related to court closures, this is a topic that is infuriating because “step increases” is a made up term that is being used now to mask giving out discretionary raises. 80+ people who are already at the top of the pay scale got discretionary raises and the rest of the AOC got decreases in salary due to mandatory furloughs. Thank you Judge Lampe for pointing out again how inappropriate and wrong (and insulting) these discretionary raises were to the courts and the vast majority of AOC employees.

    Otherwise, I agree. More of the same. No money can be found now to keep courts open but $62 million was given to CCMS in October to keep it on life support (and usually thing on life support die so why give all the reserves to Deloitte? Do they really need more money than the courts do?). Does anyone even have to account for the use of the $62 million? Where did it go? Into another contract amendment?

    Oh, and the Chief Justice got in a dig that it was not appropriate to “raid” the bond funds for court operations. And he got in a high five to Sheila that his heart for CCMS will indeed go on, like Celine Dion singing for the Titanic. The AOC can sing that song to the Legislature too, but they are bored and the passion is gone.

    • Of course, completely disregard the COLAs and step increases (and signing bonuses) still being provided in some trial courts. Do the math and payroll costs have increased by a greater percentage in the past year in the trial courts versus the AOC.

      But who cares about facts, right?

      • And also consider the COLAs and step increases that have been frozen in some trial courts – along with unpaid holidays and the furloughs. Makes it hard to look staff in the eye and say there is no additional funding from the AOC because they don’t have any money – since all staff can see is there is plenty of money if the AOC can afford raises. Just saying.

  5. Last Friday I had two Small Claims Appeals. One took about 35 minutes the other one 45 minutes. I wrote an opinion on each one which took me about 20 minutes each. A total of 120 minutes.

    When I read about today’s hearing in front of the Judicial Council I can be nothing but disappointed with the behavior of our Judicial Leaders. The closure of the courts is the biggest event for the Judicial Branch in, I believe, at least 100 years. Good and reasonable people can disagree as to whether or not we should close the courts as a last resort or as an element of cost savings which would include, besides court closing, the reduction of funds to CCMS, the taking of money from the court constuction funds and the reduction of the size and cost of the AOC.
    .

    The Judicial Council gave 10 minutes to the folks who wished to speak about the above issues. Actually, according to the “rules”I read, only court closures were allowed to be discussed. So it was only one issue before the Judicial Council: court closures.

    10 minutes for hearing other views on the issue of court closures? This is only one third of the time they took for lunch. It is a lot less time than I took to decide two Small Claims cases last week.

    “Disappointing” is being kind. What happened today was a demonstration of mock democracy which was not worthy of a democratic society.

    The Judicial Council should be ashamed of itself.

    • justinianscode

      Judge Maino, I recall the words of Joseph Welch, attorney for the United States Army, as he addressed Senator Joseph McCarthy:

      “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

      I think the answer is no.

  6. What a sad day in the history of the California courts. The issue of continuing court closures is complex and related to other critical budget issues including use of courthouse construction funds and funding of CCMS. In turn these issues are related to branch governance and the role of the local trial courts. Our great democracy is premised on giving the people access to all institutions and allowing them to speak and raise a wide variety of opinions and viewpoints. Despite the importance of these issues the JC incredibly restricted public comment today to 3 minutes per individual. Moreover I was troubled to hear the CJ cut off Judge Lampe when he started discussing the issue of branch governance telling him he could only speak to the issue of court closures. So much for a healthy exchange of ideas and debate.Judge Maino is right what we saw today was not worthy of a democratic society. I have asked and will ask again how did we get to this point? How did so much power get concentrated in the hands of so few? We need to work for positive and respectful change. Join me and the growing number of concerned citizens to work for positive and respectful change- the democratization of the Judicial Council. It is our best hope to restore confidence in our branch of California government!

    • I will join and participate in any effort to oppose and defeat Ronald George’s retention as the Chief Justice of the California Judicial Branch in the upcoming election. Just say the time and place and I’m reasonably certain I won’t be the only person showing up to volunteer in that effort.

  7. Reposting this here:
    Like many others, I was initially discouraged by the events of yesterday’s council meeting and the Chief Justice’s treatment of Judge Lampe. Today I’m feeling a little better and want to thank Judge Lampe and the ACJ for persevering in such an unreceptive environment. While the ACJ’s call for a democratized judicial branch governance structure was cut short yesterday, the Chief’s peremptory behavior toward Judge Lampe went a long way toward demonstrating (to the many constituents observing the proceedings) why those reforms are necessary.

  8. Very disappointing, the Chief Justice’s treatment of Judge Lampe. I for one expected better of the CJ. What good does it do to behave so imperiously? It looked and played badly.

  9. Just Sayin –

    I am unaware of any trial courts paying signing bonuses. Not saying it nevers happens, but I have never heard of that occurring.

    I don’t believe evaluating the AOC’s compensations policies with trial courts’ is a fair decision. Many trial court employees are represented and therefore, courts are contractually obligated to pay step increases and merit increases if required to do so by the labor agreement. AOC employees are not represented and therefore, do not have a vested right to pay increases. The AOC was not compelled by contract to give raises, unlike many trial courts that were.

    I also know a number of courts implemented furloughs, reduced hours, layoffs, so clearly not everyone is getting raises. As came up in the JC meeting yesterday there are funding disparities among the courts. Some courts can absorb budgt reductions better than others. If courts, who were not required give pay increases did so without sufficient reserves to cover budget reductions, those courts are subject to criticism.

    For AOC management to use trial court compensation as an excuse for its questionable decisions shows a lack of accountability. Their compensation decisions should be judged on their own merit. If the AOC thinks it was appropriate to give raises, there should be readily available facts to support the decision. Instead, Mr. Vickery chose to point his finger at trial courts as if he were a child on a playground attempting to explain away his by bad behavior by yelling, “Yeah, but he did it too”.

    • Wendy Darling

      And has anyone ever heard of an internal embezzlement at at trial court where the employee(s) responsible weren’t terminated by the court as well as arrested and prosecuted, or how about a trial court that knowlingly employed unlicensed contractors, such as unlicensed attorneys or investigators or court reporters, or computer specialists … ? And what trial court has “step increases” in the double digits of fourteen to thirty-one percent?

      • To answer your first question: San Mateo County Court. They still haven’t revealed were the money went and who was responsible.

      • Composite Knuckles

        Observer … you are the first I see turning on my computer tonight, so bear with me. If you have an issue with a particular court, please let the AOC know so they can alert the Judicial Council and ask for guidance. That is governance. But finger-pointing one court over another on a blog like this (when we have 58 counties!) is going to lead to disaster. Please. Respect the law. Respect the trial courts. And yes, respect the AOC. Everyone deserves respect.

  10. Correction

    I don’t believe evaluating AOC’s compensation policies by looking at the trial courts’ policies is a fair comparison.

  11. We all like facts. I noticed that some were left out of official communications. See below from Cheryl Miller:

    Nobody likes ’em, but the once-a-month, statewide court closures will continue through June at least, the Judicial Council decided Thursday.

    At least three presiding judges pressed for an end to the mandatory closures, arguing that they could afford to keep their local courthouses open while still making the required spending cuts.

    But Council members cited a number of reasons to keep the closures going: a desire for uniformity; a continuing bleak fiscal forecast; a projected savings of $63 million; and a nod to legislators who “went out on a limb,” Chief Justice Ronald George said, to OK 10 days of monthly closures last year.

    Two Los Angeles County Superior Court Judges, Lee Smalley Edmond and David Wesley, abstained from the vote after suggesting the Council needed more information about the closures and the courts’ budgets. The rest of the Council voted to continue the closures.

    The controversial issue of tapping two alternative pools of money –- funds set aside for a new computer network and courthouse construction –- was not discussed on Thursday. But it’s sure to surface again when the Council is forced to decide later this year whether to continue closing courthouses in July and beyond.

    — Cheryl Miller

  12. The Chief Justice’s treatment of Judge Lampe and the speaker before him was a disgrace. Sadly it was also consistent with the Chief’s earlier attacks on Judges who did not agree with him as shrill, uninformed and without a track record in helping the public gain access to the courts.In approximately 2004 at a CJA meeting the Chief told the assembled Judges that any effort to democratize the Judicial Council would be tantamount to a declaration of war.The message here is that no dissenting views will be tolerated or respected . As others observed the Judicial Council meeting of January 21st was indeed a sad day for democracy.Given all the above I now believe the Chief should not be retained in the next election. I join with the insightful Wendy Darling and will be ready to join in any organized election effort to oppose the Chief’s retention as the election part of our democracy still exists.

    • I would join too! It’s our only democratic tool to vote out the chief justice. We need to make use of it.

  13. If the ACJ is truly made up of “fair and impartial judges”, how about full disclosure on trial court increases? As an example, Sacramento signed a contract that would have given most employees a 31% increase over three years (this includes step increases). This also includes a $1500 signing bonus for represented staff and also $2000 bonus for supervisors. How about Nevada court who also gave outrageous
    COLA’s and equity adjustments that far outweigh anything done by the AOC. The kicker is L.A. who is crying the loudest but recently gave their employee’s COLAs. Nevada and Sacramento are now in fiscal trouble but no one seems to focus on those things. Re-visit what happened in Placer Court with double-digit increases for everyone every other year not counting step increases. Some responsible courts did not do outrageous things to get themselves in fiscal trouble.

  14. After working on the CCMS project for approximately 18 months, I left the project in 2006 because I could no longer stomach the political decisions being made to continue a project that was out of control with respect to budget, scope, and schedule. Almost 4 years have gone by since I departed, and more taxpayer money has been spent on a project that gives new meaning to the term “runaway.” Stop the madness and suspend this project until an independent audit can be completed.

  15. TooBigToFail:

    This is the sort of information that is needed. Please communicate with the Legislature what you know.

    They are the only ones who can stop the “madness” because the JC/AOC will not do anything. I suggest a direct communication between yourself and Assemblyman DeLaTorre. He seems to be a man of courage and independent thinking.

  16. Fairplay: I will say it again. The AOC encouraged trial courts to lock in SAL funding with on-going (not one-time) costs, such as salary increases and hiring of new staff. Their logic was that such action would prove to the legislature that SAL funding was much too relied on by the branch to be taken away in the future. Not to mention that if you had too much in reserves, that money would be swept and used elsewhere if it was over a certain JC approved percentage of the court’s budget (I think it was 5%, a rediculously small amount and the court’s fought against, but again lost to the Boneheads on the JC and the AOC higher ups that made the recommendation to them).

    Well guess what, SAL is gone. And the courts encumbered their reserves accordingly and guess what? Now mega cuts for the branch by the gov and the legislature.

    I just sayin that the courts that tried to abide by the AOC “rules” got screwed for their efforts to play ball.

  17. Composite Knuckles

    I’m an old bonehead, but did either AGS or Jacobs bother to answer the complaints filed by the AG on the Judicial Council’s behalf in San Francisco Superior Court? I looked up the cases and I don’t see any answers to the complaints on file. Did they skip town? I thought defendants have 30 days to answer. If you sue and the other party doesn’t answer, a good lawyer does something.

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      We are bothered by the first case management conference being pushed off as far into the future that might be permitted and wonder if this is all intentional as not to bring these matters to trial until after the November election – like there might again be some undue influence into the process.

      Furthermore with both entities still on the job when Business & Professions Code 7028.15 makes their contracts null and void this underscores the liklihood of collusion between persons in the AOC and the unlicensed contractors to still keep them on the job to the detriment of licensed contractors, whom we believe can file their own suits against the AOC for taking away work from them and rewarding criminal activity by re-signing jacobs with a licensed entity and keeping AGS on the job even though they are not licensed.

      The greater question of whom in state government is looking into how these companies continue to be rewarded with work they shouldn’t be rewarded with.

      Furthermore “Team Jacobs” the joint venture is not being named in either suit, which leaves ABM off the hook and would likely permit “Jacobs” to successfully argue Kaiser Construction and “no one can reasonably expect a large construction company to keep track of its licensure and this is a simple error that Jacobs should have to pay for” as opposed to “the entity does not and never did qualify for a joint venture license and must pay the state back”

      Again we are not lawyers but we can read precedence decisions that may affect the outcome of the Jacobs case in particular and again, the AG has not been asked to “look into the matter of how this could have happened” in accordance with statements to the media.

      That task is being left up to an entitiy that is not likely to investigate itself and a person that is not likely to investigate his superiors and coworkers in the finance department that are responsible for these contracts.

      Six months into this probe by AOC personnel and nothing has been found to be improper about these transactions?

      • Obi – the court sets a settlement conference automatically when a pleading is filed. It’s not a commentary on the merits of the case. Like Mr. Knuckles, I am curious as to whether these complaints were ever served on the parties and why no answer has been filed. If the AOC is not interested in pursuing the case, they should notify the court and stop wasting judicial resources. If they did serve the parties, they should notify the court that they did not receive an answer and they move for ___. It’s all strange.

      • Or Ms. Knuckles (red face).

      • Composite Knuckles

        Maybe they thought they were filing a complaint with the A.G. 🙂

  18. Composite Knuckles

    CCP 412.20. (a) Except as otherwise required by statute, a summons shall be directed to the defendant, signed by the clerk and issued
    under the seal of the court in which the action is pending, and it shall contain:
    (1) The title of the court in which the action is pending.
    (2) The names of the parties to the action.
    (3) A direction that the defendant file with the court a written pleading in response to the complaint within 30 days after summons is
    served on him or her.
    (4) A notice that, unless the defendant so responds, his or her default will be entered upon application by the plaintiff, and the plaintiff may apply to the court for the relief demanded in the
    complaint, which could result in garnishment of wages, taking of money or property, or other relief.
    (5) The following statement in boldface type: “You may seek the advice of an attorney in any matter connected with the complaint or
    this summons. Such attorney should be consulted promptly so that your pleading may be filed or entered within the time required by this summons.”
    (6) The following introductory legend at the top of the summons above all other matter, in boldface type, in English and Spanish:
    “Notice! You have been sued. The court may decide against you without your being heard unless you respond within 30 days. Read
    information below.”
    (b) Each county may, by ordinance, require that the legend contained in paragraph (6) of subdivision (a) be set forth in every summons issued out of the courts of that county in any additional foreign language, if the legend in the additional foreign language is set forth in the summons in the same manner as required in that
    paragraph.
    (c) A summons in a form approved by the Judicial Council is deemed to comply with this section.

    If the matter is to be taken seriously, the parties must act. You cannot serve the courts for the benefit of all Californians and mock the legal process.

    • I honestly don’t understand this issue. Either the contractor has a license or they don’t. And to sue a party for breach of contract and still employ them is bizarre. If the complaints were never served, I suppose that is why they were never answered. Or the pleadings are sitting in a stack somewhere. But the entire thing is strange. I’m sure the AG is mortified to even have to be involved.

  19. Just Sayin’ and Fair Play – what is the point of this tactic? NO ONE believes that the trial courts or their employees created the fiasco the judiciary is in. I know you’re being good soldiers and carrying the company message. But, c’mon!

  20. TooBigToFail, I’m curious. In what capacity were you working on theCCMs project?

    • TooBigFail

      Not sure everyone knows about the vendor certification process. I am vaguely familiar with it. It is my understanding that some of the vendors were certified and some small to mid-size courts were ready to go forward with purchases when someone, somewhere decided to terminate the program and make everyone go with CCMS. I expect there are a number of courts who would already have a 21st Century case management system if the AOC didn’t drop the vendor program.

      Your thoughts?

      Any reason courts couldn’t just get their own systems, certified to comply with JBBIS and Phoenix Financial requirements, and just dump data at the end of the day into some central repository? It is my understanding data exchange technology has progressed to the point where this might be feasible.

  21. ComputerGeek: I was a senior project manager on the CCMS project responsible for the implementation of the CCMS Civil application at several CA trial courts. I also worked with one of the northern CA trial courts to conduct a fit/gap analysis on the V2 application (I recommended against moving forward with the V2 implementation), and I managed the AOC CMS certification effort for one of California’s prominent case management system vendors. I had a long ande successful relationship with the AOC before I was asked to become involved in the CCMS project. I loved working with the trial court folks; however, CCMS project decisions made by AOC executive management ultimately placed me in an untenable position, and I left.

    • REPOST

      TooBigFail

      Not sure everyone knows about the vendor certification process. I am vaguely familiar with it. It is my understanding that some of the vendors were certified and some small to mid-size courts were ready to go forward with purchases when someone, somewhere decided to terminate the program and make everyone go with CCMS. I expect there are a number of courts who would already have a 21st Century case management system if the AOC didn’t drop the vendor program.

      Your thoughts?

      Any reason courts couldn’t just get their own systems, certified to comply with JBBIS and Phoenix Financial requirements, and just dump data at the end of the day into some central repository? It is my understanding data exchange technology has progressed to the point where this might be feasible

  22. WBF: You are correct – a number of CMS vendors were certified by the AOC to provide a pre-defined set of features and functions deemed required for CA trial court processing. The certification process included JBSIS functionality. I, too, believe that many small to mid-size courts would have the benefit of more effective and efficient processing today if the vendor program had been supported more robustly and comprehensively by the AOC.

  23. Patty Jane Smith

    Observer – I believe the San Mateo matter has been resolved. I’ve heard, but don’t know for sure that there were some accounting and projection errors. I also remember that the person who was at fault was either terminated or quit. I understand that when the problem came to light the court endeavored to remedy the problem. Unfortunately, the error did lead to lay-offs. Aside from this, my understanding of San Mateo is that it is generally a well-run trial court.

  24. TooBigToFail, do you write software? Know how? Have any comments on the software that has been written so far?