I’m posting a copy of a statement that the Alliance of California Judges planned on reading at today’s Judicial Council meeting.
Mr. Chief Justice and Members of the Council:
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. My name is Judge David Lampe from Kern County. I am a founding director of the Alliance of California Judges. The Alliance was formed on
September 11, 2009, in response to the unprecedented financial crisis now facing our judicial branch. The Alliance now has nearly 200 member judges from 30 counties.
Your meeting today will revisit the issue of court closures. In this atmosphere, continued closures while funds are taken away from operations will generate great criticism. This is apparent from
the outcry which has ensued upon disclosure of raises given to highly paid AOC staff. It was apparent when five days before a legislative hearing on accountability in October 2009, this Council diverted
$68.0 million from the Trial Court Trust Fund earmarked for trial court operations in favor of the expensive and questioned CCMS computer system.
We have this atmosphere of protest because there is a problem with governance. This Council does not govern the trial courts– a fact appropriately acknowledged by the Administrative Director in his
testimony in October before that legislative committee. The trial courts are by law decentralized and are appropriately managed by the trial judges who are responsible to the people of their counties who have elected them. Yet there is presently no effective structure to ensure that the trial courts are being fully heard on the budget questions that so vitally affect the public.
Ultimately, the Alliance of California Judges stands for accountability. We urge this Council to work with the Alliance of California Judges to reduce the decibel level of criticism. We urge you not to
fight ghosts of old battles of unification and state funding which are now history. We urge the following:
We ask that this Council, with the guidance of the Legislature, reaffirm the rights of the local trial courts by a Trial Court Bill of Rights that the Legislature asked for in 1997, and which has never
been acted upon by the Judicial Council.
We also ask that this Council, with direction from the Legislature, establish a separate Trial Court Advisory Group, consisting of trial judges elected by judges from the 58 county trial courts, with
provisions to balance the interests of smaller and larger courts, which could advise the Council, provide oversight as to the AOC, and report upon the judicial budget and judicial affairs.
Finally, the Alliance believes that the Judicial Council should encourage the Legislature to place the employees of the AOC under the existing protections of the whistle blower statutes.
As to the issue of the day, we urge you to rescind court closures. At the same time, we ask that you reconsider the TCTF allocation you made in October 2009 and distribute all reasonably prudent,
available, and lawful funds to the trial courts. We know that some of our counties may be able to open, and some, like Kern and Los Angeles, will likely have to continue with some form of closure or furlough.
Although it may be confusing, having some courts open will at least allow many constituents throughout the state to receive services, and it will give the local courts who have to close or furlough, the
opportunity to choose methods that allow them the most flexibility.
Finally, we know the value of speaking with one voice. To speak with one voice, that voice must first be found. Work with us to give the people a voice through democratic participation by trial judges
the people have elected. In this way, in the future, we can speak together, achieve consensus, and continue to work together to make the California judicial system the best it can be. Let the people have a voice.