The following letter was sent out to the members of the ACJ. Included in the letter is a summary of what occurred at the Judicial Council’s January 21st meeting, along with transcribed portions of the meeting wherein Judge Lampe was interrupted in the middle of his presentation and addressed as “Mr. Lampe” by Justice George.
I was so inspired by Justice George’s lack of decorum that from hereon out, in the AOC Watcher blog Justice George will now be referred to as “Mr. George” or “Mr G” for short.
To Members of the Alliance of California Judges:
Last week the Alliance of California Judges spoke at the Judicial Council Meeting on Thursday, January 21, 2010 through the appearance of board member Judge David Lampe. We are providing this report to you as to the effort made to speak, and our report of the meeting.
In order to speak to the Judicial Council publically, we had to submit a verbatim transcript of our remarks at least four days in advance for approval. We were informed late Tuesday that we could speak in the “Public Comments” section of the meeting at the beginning, but were advised that our remarks would be limited to three minutes, and could only address the agenda items of court closures and related budget issues. We asked that our full written comments be submitted to each Council member. That request was initially denied, but then granted on Wednesday, January 20, 2010. Also, we requested that we be informed in advance if any of our remarks were considered out of order. We were never so advised.
During the middle of Judge Lampe’s remarks, Chief Justice George interrupted, calling Judge Lampe “Mr. Lampe” and stating that the “Court” had ruled that the remarks were not appropriate. We had no notice of any such ruling by any court or the Judicial Council. Nevertheless, Judge Lampe explained why the remarks were relevant, but complied, and finished our presentation. It was also explained that a trial judge speaking to the Judicial Council was considered an exception to the rules, which only permit employees to speak. We are not aware of any such rules.
A copy of our submitted remarks is attached. A transcript of the remarks follows.
The Judicial Council agreed to an amendment to the AOC staff recommendation that keeping the courts open was “a” top priority, in part rejecting a proposed amendment by Judge Lee Edmon from Los Angeles that it was “the” top priority. Of the quorum present, the Council voted 17 yeas and 2 abstentions to continue court closures. The two abstentions were Judge Edmon and Judge David Wesley of Los Angeles. Judge Edmon stated generally that she felt that there was not enough information provided to make an informed decision. The continued closures were reported as necessary to save $30.0 million for the remainder of the fiscal year, and Judge Edmon questioned whether the Council and the AOC could not find that $30.0 million or some portion of it from available resources.
In the afternoon session, in acting upon court transfers, Justice Huffman remarked upon his view that someone criticizing AOC pay raises was a “clown,” and that the AOC staff does a “damn well better job” than other governmental agencies. A transcript of Justice Huffman’s remarks also follows.
Audio clips of these transcribed portions are also attached.
The Alliance of California Judges continues to believe that the governance of the Judiciary has become insular, detached, obscure, and fails to appropriately balance the rights of the individual trial courts charged by law with the obligation to govern their own affairs. This is why we advocate for a legislated Trial Court Bill of Rights, a Trial Court Advisory Group, and whistle blower protection for AOC employees.
Please feel free to share this information with your colleagues.
Transcript of ACJ comment at Judicial Council Meeting 1/21/10
(Comment begins at 28:45)
Chief Justice George: We will now hear from Judge David Lampe, a judge from Kern County.
Judge Lampe: Mr. Chief Justice, members of the Council. My name is Judge David Lampe from Kern County. I speak for the Alliance of California Judges. The Alliance was formed in September of 2009 in response to our unprecedented financial crisis. The Alliance now has 200 member judges from approximately 30 counties.
Your meeting today of course revisits the issues of court closures. You are in a difficult position. Court–continued court closures will generate great criticism. That’s apparent from the remarks you have heard today. I will not repeat some of them, but there has been reference to raises given to staff, references to the funds taken from the trial court trust fund and appropriated in October to the expensive and questioned CCMS computer system. Yesterday there were many public protests. It is our view that we are having this atmosphere of protest because there is a problem with governance.
This Council I think has appropriately recognized that it does not govern the trial courts.
The trial courts are by law decentralized, and are 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 insure that the trial courts are being fully heard. Ultimately the Alliance of California Judges stands for accountability. We urge this Council to work with the Alliance of California Judges. We urge you not to fight ghosts of old battles of unification and state funding which are now history. We ask that this Council, with the guidance of the legislature, reaffirm the rights of the trial courts by a Trial Court Bill of Rights that the legislature asked for in 1997, and which has not–
Chief Justice George: With all due respect Mr. Lampe, I think you were well informed that that is not an agenda item, and that the exception that the Court made hearing from persons other than court employees today was to permit comment on the matter of court closures which is the subject of our special session. So, you are free to communicate otherwise your views on these other issues, but your three minutes today are confined to the matters that are the subject of our agenda.
Judge Lampe: I’ll respect that Mr. Chief Justice. I–the reason I feel it’s connected to the issue is because I’m trying to say that part of the reason we are having this controversy is because the governance structure is not allowing sufficient consensus within the branch so that these decisions do not result in this atmosphere of protest. That’s the connection I think that exists to my comments, but I will respect your desire. I–what I will say, then, is since I believe the Council members have my written remarks and you can review those, I will simply say that as to the issue of the day we do urge you to rescind mandatory court closures. At the same time we ask that you reconsider the Trial Court Trust Fund allocations that you made in October, 2009. We ask that you distribute all reasonably prudent, available, and lawful funds to the trial courts. We know that some of our counties may have to continue with some form of closure or furlough, and 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 our local courts who have to close or furlough the opportunity to choose methods that allow them the most flexibility.
We do know the value of speaking with one voice as a branch. I think to speak with one voice, that voice must first be found. Work with us to give the people a voice.
Thank you very much.
Chief Justice George: Thank you Judge Lampe
Judicial Council Meeting 1/21/10
18:40 into tape of final agenda item re: courthouse transfers.
Chief Justice George: And, uh, Justice Huffman?
Justice Richard Huffman: Chief, I’d like to, uh, move approval of the recommendations, and I have just—some of the discussions we’ve had recently and some of the public discussions, um, I think for the record we need to stop and think for a moment—the Administrative Office of the Courts and its staff, in cooperation with the other governmental agencies has done an extraordinary job here and undertaken a–a
virtually mammoth responsibility as you pointed out, with a tiny fraction of the staff,
and so sometimes it makes—speaking for myself—makes me a little weary when some clown’s worried about whether or not somebody got a step increase two years ago in an outfit that’s putting in tremendous work with less resources, less staff than any other governmental agency would do, and does a (unintelligible) damn well better job, so I’m really proud to make that motion.
Chief Justice George: Thank you, and is there a second?
Judge Wesley: Second.
Chief Justice George: Judge Wesley seconded. Any further discussion? All in favor of the recommendation in your binder?
(Thereafter, a unanimous ‘Aye’ vote was recorded as to agenda item 4)