Judicial Wars: ACJ Sends Out Letter About Recent Judicial Council Meeting

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)

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52 responses to “Judicial Wars: ACJ Sends Out Letter About Recent Judicial Council Meeting

  1. Composite Knuckles

    The use of “Mr.” may or may have not been an accidental oversight, because I note that the Chief Justice concluded by thanking Judge Lampe. The use of “Court” however is strange and I think the Chief Justice forgot where he was (sitting as Chair on the Judicial Council, and not seated with all members of the Supreme Court and speaking on behalf of the Supreme Court). As much as it looks appalling in print, the day represents progress.

    As for Justice Huffman, he has been on the Judicial Council for too long and he has not earned respect. He also does not understand the salary issue at all (720 employees get decrease, 80 get increase, including 10% for the leader of the reckless spending spree known as CCMS).

    PS, the Legislature and the AG may need to investigate other California agencies that are having issues with Deloitte. The AOC is not the only one.

    • justinianscode

      Justice Huffman also resorts to using swear words when carrying out his official duties as a member of the Judicial Council at its meetings. I wonder if he would tolerate similar language from attorneys in his courtroom.

  2. justinianscode

    Is Justice Huffman referring to the CJA President, Judge Michael Vicencia, by using the word “clown”? Because if I remember right, at the December Judicial Council meeting it was Judge Vicencia (as an advisory member of the Council) who made the rather mild yet constructive suggestion that the Judicial Council keep an eye on AOC management salary increases.

    If such a suggestion means one is worthy of being labled a “clown,” then there are a number of “clowns” in the judiciary and among branch staff. It’s too bad Justice Huffman thinks so little of them all.

  3. The meeting was indeed something to behold.
    Experiencing it in person left me totally convinced that these things are simply a charade. I am more convinced than ever that massive changes to the governance structure is necessary, perhaps more massive than I believed earlier.

    Judges and court employees traveled through rough weather, on vacation days, and at their own expense, to try to get a minute or two before the council, only to be insulted by its senior members.

    In the midst of court closures and impending layoffs of hundreds of court employees, the Council found time to give out awards, joke publicly during the meeting about who would buy the drinks after the meeting (Mr. Vickrey, per the jocular Justice Huffman), and that that those concerned about AOC raises while judges are donating salary and employees are being docked pay are somehow “clowns” (this one also from Justice Huffman).

    The disrespect shown to Judge Edmon, my assistant presiding judge (she was referred to as, if memory serves “The Allmighty Lee Edmon” by the director) rankled many. This taunting snipe, couched as a joke, was delivered after she unsuccessfully moved to have the Council acknowledge that keeping the courts open is the first priority. Even this motion failed.

    Perhaps worst of all, Council members were allowed to rebut the portions of ACJ’s statement that judge Lampe was not allowed to deliver!
    In short, it was a disaster for the Council, as well as for our courts.

    On a side note, the Council noted repeatedly that the 6 additional months of closures could be avoided if only they had 40 million or so.
    They have forgotten, apparently, that two meetings ago they voted roughly 70 million into CCMS. If that money has not been spend, an emergency vote of the council should be undertaken to transfer that money back into the trial court trust fund where it belongs. The Council has this authority under the rules–they can vote by email upon the call of the Chief or AOC director, as long as they report this “circulating order” at the next meeting.

    They know how to do this–it is how they passed their Judicial Council Governance Policies in 2008. More on that later. It is an instructive story.

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      “They know how to do this–it is how they passed their Judicial Council Governance Policies in 2008. More on that later. It is an instructive story.”

      And a story I wish to know more about. A branch of government determining itself how it should be governed in virtual secrecy, without public comment, input or notice.

      {feverishly checks a map and passport to confirm where I live is not China or North Korea}

  4. Obi-Wan Kenobi

    They also forgot they will be collecting far in excess of this ampunt from AGS and Jacobs in their litigation against them – enough in fact to have kept the trial courts open all year.

    Talk about PR disasters.

  5. I agree with some remarks made here. I consider the possibility that “Mr. Lampe” was just a slip. We all make mistakes in speech. But I agree the general tenor of the proceedings is more disturbing.

    My evaluation of the genesis of the fiscal problem – and this is just my guess – is that CJ George has been given bad advice about technology. Valuable offers of help have not been well received because the CJ and others in charge believe the bad advice they have been given. CJ George, Sheila Calabro, Bill Vickery, Justice Huffman and others (none of whom know much about technology) simply don’t know any better and will never understand what could be done if they stick to believing the bad technology advice they have been given. The whole problem would come crashing down in a jiffy if they were to look at what could be done instead of CCMS to create electronic court records and share them.

    Someone asked about other problems with Deloitte. There are piles of them, and not all limited to California. Texas has blown hundreds of millions on a welfare data system, the latest iteration of which is called TIERS. Search for “Trail of TIERS” and Deloitte, and Accenture, and welfare, and Texas on the Internet. Colorado is blowing piles, jointly with California, on a project (search for CBMS, disaster, Colorado, welfare, computer, etc.) where Deloitte is the current contractor and is promising to fix a situation which has been live and serious since September 2004. It’s a takeoff on a California IT project that has blown nearly a billion dollars. Deloitte was involved right here in California too in the parent project. It’s not as if these matters are big secrets. People just don’t want to hear about it. Denial is in vogue.

    The solution comes down to whether or not people will accept good technology help when it is offered. And I assure you, it has been offered. So far, CJ George and the AOC have declined. If they finally break down, or if ACJ pushes the matter hard enough with the Legislature (which has also received offers of help), I will create all of the specialty software very quickly, show people how to use it, and make CCMS nothing more than a footnote in the judicial branch history books. Courts could open again and all of us could get on with life.

    The solution starts when the right people finally break down and say, “Enough is enough!”

    Want a solution? Contact Assemblyman Hector De La Torre and Assemblywoman Audra Strickland and urge them to explore the offers of help they received. Urge them to pay attention to what Judge Hamlin told them.

  6. Judge Horan is 100% correct in his assessment of last week’s council meeting. To sit in the JC chambers and witness the disrespect dispensed to the public speakers — not only by the usual suspects (Justice Huffman and Wm. Vickrey), but the Chief Justice — was a real eye opener even for a jaded oldtimer like me. What ‘court’ was the CJ referring to in cutting Judge Lampe off so rudely?

    (“…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…”)

    Finally, I think it’s telling that Justice Huffman, who seems to hold bozos in low regard, can make stale jokes about who’s paying for drinks after all the recent revelations of AOC excesses. And come on! Can’t the Justice get through a meeting without swearing? His “clownish” behavior goes to show how little he comprehends the damage that’s been done to trust and confidence in judicial branch governance structures. Will the man never retire?

  7. Oh Comeon! Will somebody PLEASE give ComputerGeek a job and thus spare us all his/her endless self promotion? You’d think a blog (for god’s sake!) could at least be a commercial free zone.

    • justinianscode

      Right, especially since this thread in particular has absolutely nothing to do with technology(except in the tortured sense that all budget roads lead to CCMS).

  8. Well, all the roads do lead to CCMS, as you point out. And the answer to stopping the throwing away of money on CCMS is right smack in front of you. And as far as commercial goes, remember that I offered to do the demonstration for FREE. It won’t do any good to just gripe and complain about CCMS diverting money away from other court operations. People need to DO something about it.
    Or people can just gripe, complain, whine, and watch millions go out the door totally unnecessarily while courts remain closed.

  9. P.S.
    How exactly do you think you can stop CCMS without providing a better and cheaper alternative?

  10. Oregon Teacher

    I was forwarded this link today:

    http://www.courtsed.org/cartoon_contest.htm

    I could not find any answers to my questions on the AOC’s web page …

    What is the Shapiro Administration of Justice Fund?

    Does it have a taxpayer I.D.?

    Where can I find information on the fund and its purpose?

    What events or activity has the fund underwritten?

    Is there a grant process for other states?

    What other activity has the fund sponsored?

    Anyone who knows about the fund, please advise. Thank you in advance.

    • Dear Oregon Teacher:

      I will try and answer some of your questions in the order you presented them.

      There is no such legal entity, so far as I know, called the Shapiro Administration of Justice Fund. There is an entity called The Shapiro Charitable Foundation (FEIN 95-3887151) . You can go to the Foundation’s web page located at http://foundationcenter.org to get their tax returns. Their address on the tax returns is Shapiro Family Charitable Foundation, 9401 Wilshire Blvd. number 1201, Beverly Hills, California, 90210.

      I have looked through about 200 pages of tax returns for the Foundation and this is what I find has been gifted to the AOC:

      2002: $20,000.00

      2003: $25,000.00

      2004: $25,000.00

      2005: $4500.00

      2008: $2000.00

      The total is $76,500.00.

      According to the returns the purpose of the grant is “general purpose” and that it “grants made to exempt organizations only-No APP required”

      I have looked at all of the public records available to me for both the Judicial Council and the AOC and I find the following:

      There is nothing in these minutes thanking the Foundation for this money. There is no way for me to tell where this money was spent assuming it was spent. There is no way for me to tell who had the authority to receive this money or to spend it.

      I have looked at the FPPC records available to me on their web site and I can find no Form 801, Gift to an Agency filed by the AOC.

      I have looked at the AOC web site and I cannot find any Form 801 on file with the AOC.

      Keep in mind that I am not a whiz with computers so such documents might exist and I am just not finding them.

      If you, or anyone else, has information which might help me and another judge find out where this money has gone and on what authority and why no Form 801s seems to have been filed and you wish to do so in a confidential manner and not on this blog please send it to me at my PO box. the Address is:
      Tony Maino
      P.O. Box 2987
      La Jolla, California
      92038-2987

      I hope this information has been helpful to you.

      P.S. I do not find any donations to Oregon entities but a lot to various entities in Sun Valley Idaho. The Foundation is very generous in giving money to many worthwhile groups. There appear to be hundreds of them….too many for me to list here.

  11. Free? You want access to court staff and judges to give you the requirements, which would cost taxpayer money. In turn you’ll produce a prototype for free. However, I seriously doubt you’ll give the software away for free, thus profiting from the expertise and time of the court staff and judges. You want requirements? Go look them up on the 2002 RFP for CCMS on courtinfo.ca.gov.

  12. Judge Horan, thank you for your overview of the JC meeting. I hope that your words will inspire other judges to join/support the ACJ. I have sat through so many JC, task force, working group, etc. meetings and this behavior has been going on for so long. I am just thrilled that some brave judges are finally taking responsibility to try to make some much needed changes. Once again Judge, you rock and so do your collegues.

  13. PS my fellow bloggers/readers of this blog: you think the Shapiro fund paid for those drinks after the JC meeting? 🙂

  14. Oregon Teacher: I believe you will find that the Shapiro Administration of Justice Fund is strictly for use by the California Administrative Office of the Courts. However, Ralph and Shirley Shapiro are also the founders of the Shapiro Family Charitable Foundation, and their son Peter William Shapiro is the current president. Between the foundation, personal giving and associated entities, the Shapiros are credited with more than $24 million in gifts to UCLA alone. The foundation has also given generously to many other entities and causes.

    There is apparently no web site for the foundation; however, you might be able to obtain the information you seek directly from Mr. Shapiro at the following address, which was readily available online:

    Ralph J. Shapiro
    Chair
    Avondale Investment Co.
    252 Avondale Avenue
    Los Angeles, CA 90049

    • Oregon Teacher

      Thank you. I did not realize that he administered the Shapiro fund. I will write to him directly.

    • Oregon Teacher

      I noticed this evening that the word Shapiro has been removed from the flyer. I only came across this blog from a Google search, but for your information, the fund is apparently now called the “Administration of Justice Fund.”

      • What flyer is this? Can you send me a copy at P.O. Box 2987, La Jolla, California 92038-2987?

        I am still trying to find out where they have spent the $76,500.00 before I ask the AOC for an explaination.

        thank you.

  15. Thanks once again Judge Horan for Your insightful comments on the Judicial Council. This meeting speaks volumes for why the Council should be democratized. I find it incredible that the current Council would go along with the policy of prior restraint and limitation of public speech on issues of such importance . How can the Chief Justice and the Council require that any citizens comments be approved prior to making them? Limiting a citizens comments to a mere 3 minutes is equally troubling. This is a democracy where free speech is among our most cherished ideals.Reform of the governance structure of our branch is essential. I respectfully ask the growing number of Judges, AOC and trial court employees and concerned citizens to contact their state representatives and urge them to support the Alliance’s efforts to democratize the Judicial Council. Let us also remain optimistic that positive change is indeed realistic and likely!

    • And, again, probably a violation of the Brown Open Meeting Act and a few other public sector laws.

  16. Wendy- your comments are always great. You previously had the courage to say it is time to openly discuss voting against the Chief’s retention.I agree. His performance limiting public comment and cutting off Judge Lampe is a sad comment about the state of affairs in the Judicial branch.Wendy I will join you and all others anywhere in the state to help launch the campaign to vote no on retention. By the way any chance Justice Huffman is also up for retention?

  17. I did not know that the AOC received checks in those amounts! Is not the Chief Justice friends with Mr. Shapiro? I know they both have donated to the same causes, so why would I not reasonably think that Mr. Shapiro gave large checks in order to curry favor with the Chief?

    As for reporting, I believe the Form 801 started in 2008. You can find examples on the Governor’s web page. But with ALL of the money, the AOC still had an obligation to report it. No one knows what Shapiro money was used for, because apparently the AOC has never thought they needed to tell anyone. I think someone mentioned this already, but you could make a strong argument that with no records or disclosure, the Shapiro fund has been a slush fund the entire time.

  18. Composite Knuckles

    If Shapiro money was used for big events (like the Chief Justice’s big anniversary dinner), it should have been disclosed to all the attendees by printing the name of the fund on all the collateral. But I don’t think the AOC has ever taken establishing a legal fund or reporting requirements seriously. They panic if someone gets a box of fruit as a holidy gift from a consultant, but they apparently have had no problem receiving $25,000 checks (which are clearly gifts in the world of government).

  19. Composite Knuckles

    PS, Judge Maino. The FPPC will investigate and they will impose fines if they find that gifts have been received but never reported. But someone has to file a complaint.

  20. Yes, I may file a complaint but I want to make sure of my facts before I do so.

    In addition I think it only fair that I ask the Chief Justice and/or Mr. Vickrey to explain things before I file a complaint. There might just be an mistake of some sort, which we can all make, which would not warrant a formal complaint. The FPPC complaints are a public record: I love the Judicial Branch and it will greatly distress me to see scandal or an investigation of scandal of it. I intend to be most careful…but I need facts.

  21. All valid points Judge Maino. I also believe that you can write to the FPPC and ask for advice before you file a complaint. But I agree, the quickest way to get an answer about the Shapiro fund is to ask the Chief Justice and Mr. Vickrey. No one likes seeing anyone be embarassed, beyond what we already are going through day to day.

  22. Real Party in Interest

    Thank you Judge Maino for taking this issue to heart. I think many of us would be satisfied with a confirmation from the AOC that they have indeed received in total $__ from the Shapiro’s, and an explanation that the money can be accounted for and was used each year for ___.

  23. To paraphrase the late former Govenor of Texas Anne Richards: Justice Huffman “was born with a silver foot in his mouth”. When is that guy going to learn to shut his gob?!

  24. Paula J. Negley

    For those of you interested in some of the issues that have been raised here lately, such as potential violations of the Brown Open Meeting Act, the Fair Political Practices Act and reporting requirements, and other public sector laws and rules pertaining to State administrative agencies, boards, and councils, you might be interested in the following resource if you are not already aware of it:

    Center for Public Interest Law
    University of San Diego School of Law
    5998 Alcala Park
    San Diego, CA 92110
    Website: http://www.cpil.org
    (619) 260-4806
    (619) 260-4753 (fax)

    Center for Public Interest Law
    717 K Street Suite 509
    Sacramento, CA 95814
    (916) 444-3875
    (916) 444-6611 (fax)

    The Center for Public Interest Law was founded at the University of San Diego School of Law in 1980. The CPIL focuses its efforts of the oversight, review, and study on an “extremely powerful, yet often overlooked, level of government:” state regulatory agencies, boards and councils. The CPIL fulfills its mission through both advocacy and research in regulatory and public interest law. Through its advocacy mission, the CPIL seeks to make the regulatory functions of California government more efficient and visible by serving as a monitor of state regulatory activity, and has been especially active in advocating public interest reforms to the State’s public record statutes and open meetings laws. CPIL faculty, professional staff, and interns represent the interests of the unorganized and underrepresented in California’s courts, regulatory agencies, boards, and councils, and the State legislature.

    • Are you the Paula J. Negley who sued the AOC in Federal Court in August of 2008 on a wage claim? If so, what was the result?

      By the way the Federal Court uses a system called “Pacer” which I am told is pretty good. Does anyone know how much Pacer cost?

      • Paula J. Negley

        Judge Maino:

        Yes, I am the Paula J. Negley who is the named plaintiff in the lawsuit filed against the AOC in Federal Court in August of 2008 on a wage claim. The most immediate “result” to date of the Federal lawsuit is that the AOC fired me after I complied with the order of the federal judge to turn over documents. Following my termination by the AOC after obeying the judge’s order, the federal lawsuit was amended beyond the Equal Pay Act claim, the case is still active, the parties are still in discovery, and a trial date has been set for late July 2010 in the Federal District Court in San Francisco. The case record can be accessed and viewed through PACER, or directly on the 16th floor of the Federal District Court on Golden Gate Avenue in San Francisco, right across the street from the AOC.

        “PACER” – Public Access to Court Electronic Records – the system-wide Federal Court case management system – is very easy to use – for anyone, and I have found the cost to be minimal. Anyone can register, registration is easy, and once you are registered, searching and accessing records is easy, and the cost for printing/downloading is about six cents a page. I do not recall being charged a “subscription” or “registration” fee, and as far as I am aware a person is only charged for what is actually accessed and printed or downloaded, and, based on my personal experience with PACER, that cost has been minimal. Everyone that I have talked to who uses PACER has had no complaints about it and/or has highly praised it, including the court clerks and legal staff at the Federal Courts.

  25. I don’t know what it cost to develop and implement, but I do know that PACER was a dream for anyone who needed to access pleadings and get the status of the case. Legal secretaries were wary of E-filing demands established by certain districts, but once they got used to it, they adapted and appreciated it because they had more time to finish, file and serve a pleading. It was subscriber-based but I don’t recall it being outrageously priced. Someone currently at a law firm could tell you the current pricing that PACER charges subscribers.

  26. justacourtworker

    Judge Horan: Thank you for your continued comments and vigilance. Although I didn’t attend this meeting, I did attend the Oct 28th meeting and witnessed some of the same disrespect. As you mentioned, many of us use our personal time to attend these meetings, rallys and other events at an aim to shead sunlight on what has been taking place. Now that people like you have stepped forward, it is a good feeling to know we are not alone. When that type of disrespect is shown to fellow judges, you can only imagine how the average court worker can be disrespected and how discouraging it can become. Thank you.

  27. The Chief Justice’s and the AOC’s recent gerrymandering of the Judicial Council business meeting put me in mind of something I recently read in Sheldon Wolden’s “Democracy Incorporated.” By disabling dissent and crippling any meaningful discussion (i.e., speakers granted only 3 minutes and limited to prescribed topics), our branch leaders, would seem to be practicing what Wolden calls inverted totalitarianism. That is, they merely:

    “…purport to honor electoral politics, freedom and the Constitution. But they so corrupt and manipulate the levers of power as to make democracy impossible.”

    Wolden goes on to write:

    “There is no national institution left that can accurately be described as democratic. Citizens, rather than participate in power, are allowed to have virtual opinions to preordained questions, a kind of participatory fascism as meaningless as voting on “American Idol.”

    Sounds very much like a typical Judicial Council meeting at which the AOC has pre-rigged all the questions and provided most of the so-called answers.

  28. so we been told J Huffman apologized for making his “clown” remark to whoever he was directing that to. Perhaps he should apologize to the rest of us for his continued arrogance in leading the Judicial Council and its antidemocratic policies.

  29. versal-versal

    Even better yet maybe we should seek an additional constitutional amendment to have Supreme Court and Appellate Justices subject to retention to every six years so that the people have some check on the arrogance of Justices like the Chief and J Huffman.The last Judicial Council meeting proves this point as the Chief cut off and limited dissent and J. Huffman felt it appropriate to castigate a Judge who he didn’t agree with as a “clown”. Their arrogance makes the case for significant change in the governance of the branch almost better than anyone else.

  30. Eunicle: I think you’ve identified a perfect description for the JC/AOC’s approach to judicial branch governance – “inverted totalitarianism.” Our so-called leaders set the agenda of permissible topics, determine who will/will not be heard, and for how long. As an added bonus, they exercise the right to castigate and insult any dissenters as “clowns.” Personally, I don’t care if Huffman apologized for his boorish behavior. Too late and too little.

    Interesting to hear Darrell Steinberg on KGO Newstalk 810 (Feb. 1) admitting (in view of CCMS and no-bid contracts) the need for greater oversight of the Judicial Branch. Let’s hope he’s not just whistling Dixie. Inverted totalitarianism. That sounds about right.

  31. Real Party in Interest

    Judge Maino:

    There is a flyer is on the AOC’s web page for a cartoon contest
    http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/

    It references an Administration of Justice Fund, but elsewhere on the site there is different language:

    Elementary, middle and high school students are invited to create cartoon art depicting first amendment freedoms. Six winners will receive a $50 gift certificate, and five entries will receive honorable mention. Submissions are due March 30, 2010. Prizes are provided by the Constitutional Rights Foundation and the Shapiro Administration of Justice Fund to better educate youth about the role of the judicial branch in our system of democracy!

    I certainly applaud teachers being creative with students, and teaching them about the courts, but I think the AOC needs to decide what this fund is really called and how it relates to the Shapiro family.

    • Everything is a cover-up from the word go.

      It’s quite impressive how it all is so carefully orchestrated. You find something questionable and an answer after the fact appears. Just like AGS switching from an LLC to a corporation and being issued a contractors license a week ago. And do we believe that the AOC will re-ink a contract with AGS?

      Likely. They did with Jacobs.

      Given all of these contracts expire in April I wouldn’t be suprised if the AOC is planning to re-up the expired contracts without putting it out to bid and at twice the price so they can pay them back for having to file suit against them.

  32. WOW. The Shapiro family has given the AOC $76.500.00 from 2002 until 2008.

    At $50.000 a prize even I, stupid in math, and with two glasses of Cabernet in me, figures that comes out to about 38,ooo prizes at $50.oo a pop. . This is absurd. Where has this money gone?

    Please AOC: with your open and transparent connection with the Chief, the Legislature, the Press and the public tell us what has happened to $76,000.00 of the taxpayer’s money?

    The last time the Shapiro Fund was mentioned in any Judicial Council or AOC communication was in 2006. Why are we hearing about this fund now?

    Please come clean: what have you done with the taxpayer’s money?

  33. Truth and Consequences

    If the AOC does not know how to account for or report simple grants from a family foundation, why should any funder (or the Federal government for that matter), trust them with an award of any amount of money for them to administer? Either there is a Shapiro fund or there isn’t. Clearly the family has given them money, so why is no press writing about this?

  34. Tony- Do you remember getting a calendar sent to you from the AOC around four years ago with very nice pictures of historic courthouses for each month? On the back of that publication it states that this was paid with Shapiro Administration of Justice Funds. The next year you received another calendar with day to day messages including those crediting the CJ and AOC with various good works. This calendar was also paid for by the Shapiro Administration of Justice Fund. That is at least where some of the money may have gone. What I find interesting is that if you Google the Shapiro Administration of Justice Fund you won’t find much.Ultimately you then raise a great question- what has been done with the taxpayer’s money?

  35. versal-versal:

    I remember the calendars. I did not pick up on who had paid for them. The first calendar was well done and it was interesting seeing each of the courthouses and finding out some of the history of each one. The second calendar hit the circular file rather quickly.

    Thanks for the information.

  36. Truth and Consequences and Versal-Versal:
    As other posters have noted, the Shapiro Fund is used to pay for things that can’t be charged to taxpayer sources. Examples include guest speakers at AOC forums, off-site Judicial Council receptions and dinners that include wine and/or liquor, youth projects (such as the current cartoon contest), and other projects that might look like Public Relations (e.g., calendars, souvenir courthouse post cards, etc.). Once in a while that rules gets stretched; example, last year’s cardboard coaster/trivet produced to advertise the council’s operational plan and paid for, I’m told, from the Trial Court Improvement Fund (lots of jokes going around the AOC about that one at the time).

    As for practicing good accountability for grant funds, federal and otherwise, those of us who’ve worked in the AOC’s Center for Children Families and the Courts can tell you that in CFCC, we keep meticulous records for our grants (and we’ve had lots of them) and produce all the required reports. Not our fault if the Executive Office hasn’t or doesn’t follow suit with the Shapiro Funds.

  37. Truth and Consequences

    I personally don’t care about coasters or prizes for school children, but I do care about money from Mr. Shapiro being used for

    Celebrations for the Chief Justice (with no disclosure to the participants of what exactly Mr. Shapiro paid for) – the men are friends

    Liquor or food for Council Members but no disclosure that Mr. Shapiro paid for it.

  38. Real Party in Interest

    I struggle with the appearance issues here. If the Shapiro foundation has given the AOC such large sums, how can the Supreme Court rule objectively on anything before them involving the UC system or any number of the hundreds of businesses that Mr. Shapiro’s foundation has invested in? It reminds me when the Supreme Court abandoned the multimillion dollar toxic-tort case in November 2007 because four of the court’s seven members owned stock in the oil-company defendants. What kind of message are we sending about impartial courts or the integrity of the judiciary?

  39. Real Party – You raise some interesting ethical issues. For example, Mr Shapiro has been very generous to UCLA. That certainly speaks well of Mr Shapiro to give to one of the finest universities in the country.However what happens if a Judge is assigned a case in which UCLA is sued and that same Judge has been a member of the Judicial Council? If its true that the Shapiro fund provides wine and amenities at Judicial Council dinners one would assume the Judge would have to disclose all that or recuse themselves right?Certainly this raises significant potential questions regarding fairness and integrity of the courts.

  40. Real Party in Interest

    Mysterious funds and judges do not go well together. It is already making me uncomfortable to know the fund has only been mentioned once in minutes from 2006 as being something that will be dedicated for guest lectures. But if the money from the foundation has been used for multiple purposes contrary to its established purpose (ranging from prizes to social events to calendars), it raises enormous ethical concerns.