LA Times Editorial Board Comes Out In Favor of Court Construction

Editorial
Rebuilding California’s courts

It’s time to put money designated for construction to work doing that, not funding ongoing operations.

In 2008, the Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger agreed to increase the cost of parking tickets and a range of other civil and criminal fines and fees to raise money to begin repairing and rebuilding dangerous, outdated and inaccessible courthouses across the state. But almost as soon as the higher fees were in place, lawmakers and the governor declared a budget emergency and temporarily diverted much of the new money to fund ongoing court operations.

Now the state’s biggest trial court, the Los Angeles County Superior Court, sees years of further budget shortfalls ahead and says that it may need to lay off as much as a third of its nonjudicial staff over the next three years to make ends meet. To avoid those layoffs and, more to the point, to avert a large-scale courtroom shutdown that could delay justice for many litigants — from residents seeking divorce and child custody to corporations suing one another — court leaders here want to put off the construction program for at least one more year so they can again divert the money to operations.

But such diversions cannot go on forever. There almost certainly will never be a time when courts are so knee-deep in money that judges, court administrators and Sacramento lawmakers will lose all temptation to grab the construction funds. Today’s court operations funding problem could well be severe, but so is the need to replace or repair dozens of ramshackle, outmoded, unsafe and just plain inconveniently located courtrooms in many of California’s 58 counties, including Los Angeles. The funds — authorized by legislation known as SB 1407 — should finally be allowed to do their work.

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46 responses to “LA Times Editorial Board Comes Out In Favor of Court Construction

  1. In internet parlance, I’m going to say that that entire editorial should be QFT. I hope that anyone from the AOC and Judicial Council AND the ACJ who reads this blog takes the sentiments in the editorial to heart. Time to stop pushing for a return to local fiefdoms, time to keep on the AOC to be transparent, and time to work together as a Branch.

  2. I also think that this editorial is going to be a big blow to those who are trying to mount a campaign against Chief Justice George’s retention.

    Perhaps someone in favor of not retaining the Chief Justice could clue me in on i) who you think would be appointed Chief Justice in his stead, and ii) why you think that person would be better than Chief Justice George.

  3. Real Party in Interest

    I actually think this editorial is balanced and calls on everyone to get their sh@t together for the benefit of the branch. The only thing I don’t like is the reference to a “handful of judges,” as if only 5 or 6 people are unhappy. There are literally hundreds of judges, court workers, AOC workers and turned away litigants who are not happy with the current state of affairs. CCMS and its failed leadership has bankrupt the branch, and no one will admit it.

    And in the name of free press and government transparency, I would like to see the LA Times write about Ralph and Shirley Shapiro, and their large charitable donations to the AOC.

  4. i) who you think would be appointed Chief Justice in his stead?

    Wouldn’t this decision be up to the new Governor? I would be happy with Judge McCoy as the new Chief Justice, but there are several worthy choices. BTW, I will also be voting no for Justice Chin’s retention, because he has supported the CCMS folly.

    and ii) why you think that person would be better than Chief Justice George?

    Because a new leader could (1) democratize the Judicial Council, (2) shake up the AOC from top to bottom, and (3) lead the branch by consensus.

    • And set an example of ethics, authentic accountability and transparency befitting the Judicial Branch and the Office of the Chief Justice, none of which now exists with the current and disgraceful lack of leadership under Ronald George.

  5. PattyJaneSmith

    I don’t think the LA Times did anyone any favors. Including the Chief Jusrice. He is the man at the helm of a house in disarray. Fraught with problems and messy politics. The LA Times piece simply illustrates these points. I don’t agree with everything in the Times piece but it furthers and stimulates the debate.

    Judge Dredd I don’t think the real issues people are raising on this blog and elsewhere are about taking us back to the old days. Using that line is yet again a diversionary tactic in an effort to draw attention away from the real and very serious problems facing the Judiciary.
    In the end, I don’t think the LA Times writing about the CJ and the AOC is a good thing for them because inevitably the truth will come out and they are not clean. So I see it as a victory for the other side that the LA Times wrote anything about these issues because now it broadens the debate in a big media market where people are truly sick of govement waste and pissed off that they can’t get their day in court.

  6. These are excellent points PJS.

    The editorial did not say a word about how much taxpayer money has gone to Deloitte Consulting for a failed endeavor that is the real reason why there is an overall lack of money for the branch (see JC decision in October to spend down all reserves on CCMS).

  7. PattyJaneSmith

    And if I recall correctly the LA Times did a fairly good job of kicking Deloitte in the teeth for screwing up the LAUSD payroll system.

  8. Nathaniel Woodhull

    Judge_Dredd:
    I for one, and those with whom I associate, do not want to see a return to any local fiefdoms that might have pre-dated consolidation.
    The Constitution, statute and rules of court set forth that there is to be decentralized governance of trial courts. The judges from each of the 58 counties stand for election within their respective counties. Culture, both legal and social, vary significantly throughout the State.
    I agree that rules and procedures should be standardized, so that lawyers or litigants are not subject to be “homered” in a different county. That being said, one-size fits all does not work in our system of justice.
    The Chief and AOC Administration (Vickery) have started from the premise that prior to 1995, the Judicial Branch did not exist. Edicts and tenets handed down seemingly start from the premise that everything is broken and that the JC and AOC need to “fix” everything. Insulting to many of us who have worked for decades to create innovative programs granting access to the people we serve.
    The AOC is supposed to support the trial courts. AOC Administration projects that trial courts are subservient and are reportable to the JC and them.
    Employing countless lawyers making about $200 a month less than a judge who do little more than “make work”, writing inane rules, protocols and procedures that change every six months are not necessary. When assistance is needed, asking these lawyers direct questions to specific questions normally results in a verbose trip to Neverland, often leaving questioner more confused than before they made the call.
    Creating a climate of fear on the part of the judges, making them believe that if they don’t kiss the ring of the CJ or voice any question or dissent, will result in their being forever branded and unable to attain seats on the Court of Appeals or JC in the future is not warranted.
    Entering into no-bid contracts for hundreds of millions of dollars for projects like CCMS demonstrate a poor management skill set. Continuing the spin on CCMS evince incredible arrogance and make it hard to want to follow the leader to the gates of _ _ _ _.
    Carol Corrigan for one would make a great CJ.

  9. Judge Dredd,
    Thanks for your comments. I read the Times editorial and evaluated it for what it was worth. It was one of many editorials published in local papers throughout the state regarding the court closures over the past year. Additionally, I have read your comments. We all should appreciate this forum. There are few like this in the judiciary.

    Let me say, I am saddened. I am saddened that we are closing our courts. I am sorry to see good employees fired because our budget has become unmanageable. As I watch our courts, admin, and employees fight over finite resources, I worry about what will be left of the judiciary months and years from now.

    What is missing from this dialogue is simply this: an honest, open discussion about branch priorities. Am I for building new courthouses to replace dangerous aging courthouses? Of course. Do we, as a branch need a modern computer system? Of course. Does our branch need to stay open to the public as a co-equal branch of government and honor the social contract we made with the citizens of our state? The answer should be unequivocally yes. But missing from this debate is the issue of priorities. We can’t do it all.

    My belief is that the most important priority for the courts is to remain open. While other co-equal branches of goverment are experiencing furloughs, our leaders have decided to close the branch. This is unprecedented. Our leaders during the January Council meeting could not agree that remaining open should be “the” not “a” priority for the courts. I respectfully disagree with their position.

    During the January Council meeting, the members lamented about the closures feeling that there was no other way to save the approximately $30 million saved by the closures. One member did not see closing as significant as the critics have decried.

    Yet, I look at the over $700 million spent on CCMS so far and the estimated $1.7 billion total price tag for the system and argue that the computer system should be secondary to open safe court houses.

    As part of the last budget agreement, the AOC was required to take $100 million from CCMS and re-direct it towards court operations. However, merely 4 months later, the council voted to remove $72 million from the trial court trust fund for CCMS. That was their choice. My priorities would be different.

    The Times editorial you adovcate to take as truth (qtf), has many statements that are not accurate. Indeed, to say that merely a “handful” of judges oppose court closures in simply not true. With over 200 members, the Alliance of California Judges represents judges and justices from over 37 counties. Additionally, clerks, deputies, and other courthouse partners have joined in a call for transparency and accountability for the decisions to close the courts.

    Simply arguing a sound bite such as, ” Time to stop pushing for a return to local fiefdoms'” does little to enhance the dialogue. There is nothing wrong or disingenous about Lockyer-Eisenburg. However, many provisions of the statute were either ignored or ommitted. Most glaringly, the Trial Court Bill of Rights. Without it, there is no check on an AOC that continues to hire and extend raises to their management while local courts are forced to layoff valuable employees.

    I do know that a vigorous debate is essential to build a consensus. I do believe that local courts should have a far greater say. That does not mean I do not believe that it is essential that there is comity between the AOC and local courts. However, witness the AOC’s recent refusal to reveal to judges a dialogue during a recent CEO meeting citing “delibrative process.” This is hardly a transparent process. And yet without some inclusion of all the “partners” and their opinions there is little hope to build a consensus. Democracy derives power from the consent of those governed. There is no oversight of our budget and there is no consensus to work together.

    As to court construction, in a perfect world I am for all the projects. They are needed. Yet, they will come at a cost. Some judges, somewhat inarticulately, argue a vague multiplier effect of macro economic policy if we employee workers to build the courthouses. Yet, they may be ignoring the possibility of layoffs that could occur if no help is given to local courts. How many court closures and employee firings are the new courthouses worth? I don’t have that answer. Do you? It may come down to that binary, visceral choice.

    As for the tone of the argument that the editorial mentions and that you believe should be QTF, I ask you to point to any Alliance comment that attacks any council member or AOC employee as
    “adolescent” or “sniping.” Those that disagree with my position have attacked the Alliance and people who are like minded as “shrill,” “clowns,” opposing closures “only to protect their pocket books” “rock-throwers” and recently refused to acknowledge an Alliance director as a judge. These comments serve little purpose and accomplish nothing.

    So, Judge Dredd, what say you? What are your priorities? Closures, computers, court houses? firings? What do you think Judge Dredd….Judges make these calls every day….do you agree the question is one of priorities or not?

  10. Real Party in Interest

    Thank God for thinking. Thank you judges.

  11. Hi Judge _Dredd – Nice to see you back here.I respect your thoughtful views. Thanks to Nathaniel and Judge Goldstein for putting many of the issues our branch confronts in a great perspective. Sadly the Chief will be reconfirmed. I hope I live long enough to see a Chief Justice who respects in a healthy exchange of ideas and dissent, who will do the right thing and democratize the Judicial Council, and who respects in the hard work and dedication of the local trial courts.

  12. Obi-Wan Kenobi

    The real issue at hand is that anyone stepping back from the whole situation after an analysis of three things comes to the realization that the money is there to run the courts.

    1. The use of unlicensed DOD contractors who were charging an average of $128.00 to change a light bulb. An average cost that is and has been falling with increased vigilance and that was nearly $2,000.00 in 2006-2007. If one views the actual contracts that have been posted with Peter Krause’s amended lawsuit one will discover that the 128.00 lightbulb change also comes with management fees that were as high as 30% and peformance-based guarantees of another 5% just by side-stepping the contract through a layer of management in OCCM and a second layer of management of the service providers. If they subbed that out to a preferred vendor (as Jacobs did with ABM and ABM did with any number of subcontractors) then it is a never-lose proposition with zero incentive for any cost controls. A contractor is contractually guaranteed to make a hefty profit of at least 35%. This accounts for some large portion of the 300 million spent on inept service providers who both stand accused by their own employees of wage and hour violations, who aren’t subject to payroll auditing and who don’t obey public bidding laws. The AOC enshrined violations of the Clayton act and Sherman act into contracts with the vendors. This accounts for a large portion of some 300 million dollars that could have kept the courts open.

    2. OCCM’s use of pre-approved designers contractors to perform the work as opposed to an open and transparent public bidding process is making OCCM’s courthouses come in at around $1,000.00 per square foot! This insane price per foot based on a flawed model of only allowing a few pre-approved vendors to bid is bringing these courthouses in at a price THREE TIMES THE PRICE of those built by the U.S. General Services Administration. This accounts for 1.8 billion dollars that could keep the courts open – or built or improved twice as many courthouses.

    3. CCMS is a program whose projected costs have blown out of any reasonable proportion and are estimated at $47.00 for every man, woman and child in California or some $83,000.00 per Judicial Branch Employee and qualifying the software package for the GUINNESS BOOK OF WORLD RECORDS as the most expensive publicly funded, privately developed software package that the world has ever seen. We’ve talked to a large host of experienced developers, programmers and software companies. No one believes that such a software package and statewide deployment of such a package should exceed 50 million dollars. Many have quoted as little as 10 million dollars. This accounts for 1.7 billion dollars that could be used to keep the courts open.

    Between these three issues 3.8 billion dollars that could keep the courts open has been or is being squandered but it is not to late to right a sinking ship as more than 2.1 billion dollars of this money has been earmarked but has not yet been spent or has been already spent but is recoverable.

    If anyone believes different – please prove me wrong.

    • Actually $5 Million is plenty for creating electronic court records and sharing them.

      • Obi-Wan Kenobi

        Not necessarily for deploying the app to 58 counties and thousands of people – with training.

      • Extent of training required depends on ease of use, intuitiveness, User’s Manual. I have experience in this area. You might be surprised how little training might be required with well-written software. Been there. Done that. Few tech help calls. I’ll stand by the $5 Million max.

  13. Obi-Wan Kenobi

    To answer Judge Dredd’s question I believe that the correct internet parlance and one used by members of our armed forces is CF – and not QFT. One editorial does not make public opinion.

    With respect to those who may wish to unseat Chief Justice George for his obvious series of CF’s illustrated above and Justice Chin for his own CF of CCMS this editorial falls short on facts and submits the opinion of the editor. Editors have assholes too – just like everyone else. For one newspaper editorial that supports new courthouses, I can find two that question the costs of new courthouses.

  14. Obi-Wan Kenobi

    SNAFU works too I suppose. 🙂

  15. The approach used by OCCM with respect to engaging the services of design contractors is no different from the approach used by CCMS senior management in Burbank to engage the services of Deloitte Consulting and the high-priced independent contractors who’ve been “working” on this project with DC since 2001. No bid, sole source contracts such as the ones in place for CCMS have resulted in the CCMS mess taxpayers have funded One of the independent consultants who has been on the CCMS project since 2001 actually owns a plane and uses it to fly around the State for “CCMS business.” He has also transported AOC ISD executives to court visits/meetings. He told me once that it cost him $14,000/year just to maintain the airplane. Does anyone doubt that taxpayers have funded his airplane? It’s amusing to visit http://www.linkedin.com and read the glowing recommendations the independents are writing for each other talking about what fine managers they are and what great jobs they’ve done on CCMS. Their criteria must be very different from mine. I’ve successfully worked as a senior IT PM and independent consultant for 15+ years, and I’m evaluated on meeting the project scope, budget, and schedule as identified in s statement of work. No reputable senior PM would plan a project that builds software for several years without deploying it to a representative sample of the target audience. And knowledgeable IT management would not allow a situation where only vendor staff participate in the development of the software code. AOC developers (FTE) should have long ago been imbedded with the DC development team to not only provide for ongoing maintenance of the application but to also provide for contingency planning in the event DC doesn’t get what it wants in contract negotiations. No further development work should be done on CCMS until AOC developers can participate in the work. And, Computer Geek, this application cannot be developed and implemented for $5M. It also should not cost anywhere near $2.1B

    • With all due respect, TooBigTo Fail, you are incorrect. $5 Million is more than enough. Perhaps I will get the opportunity to demonstrate this to you. That simply depends on whether or not those in positions of power push the point and ask me to develop an alternative.

      I agree about trying out software on the target audience. As a matter of fact, that’s where I always start to get info for design. The software must be based on input from the intended end-users. It doesn’t matter one damn bit whether IT people like the software or not. It’s not for them. It’s for the workers. I never lose sight of that.

      As for any of this taking several years, that is just plain absurd. The basics can be done in weeks by one programmer. I have written more complicated software in less time than that. DC and the AOC haven’t even done some of the essential basics after $500 Million and somewhere around 9 years of effort. And at this point in time, it may be virtually impossible to create some of the necessary but missing basics to match what has been done so far, a prediction also made by an IT friend of mine. And he has some considerable experience dealing with just such problems. If allowed to keep going, the CCMS project could be essentially endless, or at least it would run until the money absolutely runs out.

      Want to see a demonstration of what could be done? Push the Legislature to authorize it and push them to arrange the necessary cooperation by intended end-users. Then sit back and watch.

  16. P.S., TooBigToFail. I suspect you are making certain assumptions about system architecture, internal software architecture, etc. Consider the possibility there is more than one way to skin the cat. I saw that process in action in the creation of a prior piece of specialty software I wrote. The IT whizzes and even the non-techies had their minds set in a particular mold. So they rolled their eyes as they emphasized how complicated the calculations would be. They overlooked a more elegant way of getting software to perform the complex mathematical and statistical calculations required. No question about it, their approach would have taken forever. But I simply sidestepped their approach.
    Bear in mind that modern hardware such as I have right in front of me at this moment can easily outrun super computers of not many years ago. I have taken that into account in my approach to how to make court case records electronic and easily accessible.

  17. I believe concerned taxpayers should push the legislature to immediately suspend the CCMS project until a comprehensive, independent audit can be done on this project. This project has been grossly mismanaged by AOC senior management, and in this time of great sacrifices on the part of CA taxpayers, I believe it’s shameful to continue to fund this runaway project. NO CONTRACT with Deloitte Consulting should be allowed to be executed until an audit is completed. Once an audit has been done, it’s appropriate to seek other solutions for trial court CMS applications. Since I worked on the AOC certification effort, I strongly support a recommendation made by another blogger to revisit the application features/functions of vendors who were certified in 2003. The AOC tried hard to put them out of business in CA by dropping the funding for the implementation of vendor certified software in trial courts; however, they are still around because of the significant CCMS delays. I imagine it would not take anywhere near the Deloitte costs to work in partnership with these vendors to upgrade their software, where needed, to browser-based technology. JBSIS information was a requirement for certification, so the State would get the information iy needs from vendor software. This model would also be superior to the one that has been attempted because no single vendor would be in the “cat bird” seat. BTW, I have no affiliation with any CMS vendors. It’s just that this was a viable model in 2003 that should have been pursued.

  18. TooBig

    An audit has been recommended and a vote is scheduled for next week before the Legislative (Joint??) Audit Committee. Apparently, the AOC is lobbying members to vote against the audit because it is “unnecessary”. If anyone is interested in this issue, they should call their Assemblyperson or State Senator and express support for the audit.

    I don’t work for a CMS vendor either. However, I believe at least a few of them, including Sustain, already have web-based systems. As far as JBSSIS – with improvements made at the AOC OCR and with database management and report writing systes(Crystal, Reports, etc.) it would not be difficult to make a CMS JBSSIS compliant. Sustain already is.

    I agree. The CCMS project should be suspended. The AOC should put together a committee which represents a variety of perspectives on CCMS to fully analyze and evaluate CCMS relative to other CMS alternatives.

    The JC and AOC leadership have lost almost all credibility in the eyes of those within the branch as well as those on the outside. The CJ no longer has the respect of trial court and appellate court judges and justices. Ron and Bill, while well-intentioned, are looked upon by trial court administrators and AOC employees with distrust.

    A great first step in re-building trust and confidence in the judicial branch leadership would be for the JC to show a willingness to reconsider its earlier decisions in light of changed circumstances. I am sure the legislature does not want to be stuck in the middle of this mess and the JC/AOC could actually improve its standing in Sacramento if it were willing to proactively and objectively weigh the merits of the CCMS project.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think that will happen, so call your local legislator and demand an audit.

  19. BeStraighforward

    Computer Geek/Richard Power: Maybe its time to be straightforward and let folks know that the “prior piece of specialty software” that you continue to tout as your most exceptional computer accomplishment was for a bowling competition.

  20. I completely agree. An audit can reveal practices that never should have taken place, and provide a check that they never take place again.

  21. judicial observer

    I must have missed the Judicial Council meeting where they made the policy decision to have the AOC be open and transparent, except if there is an audit which might raise criticism. But that does appear to be the case, doesn’t it?

    Those in leadership positions in the Judicial Branch (yes, those of you on the Judicial Council and also the executive management at the AOC) should be ashamed of the actions of the AOC and should not be surprised when the taxpaying public and the legislature loses confidence in our ability to responsibly manage ourselves.

    As happened with California’s education system over the past 40 years, once the envy of the nation and now at the bottom because of mismanagement and leadership stymied by its own entrenched bureaucracy, we all will suffer and this once great Judicial Branch will continue to sink in respect and stature.

    What a sham.

  22. Nothing wrong with an audit and certainly nothing wrong with suspending expenditures on CCMS. But … shouldn’t they also be looking simultaneously at what could be done that is better and cheaper? The audit could be done later at a leisurely pace, sort of like a post mortem or follow-up exam. But right now the patient is bleeding and the surgical fix is immediately available.

  23. We are in the process of posting the text results of our recent survey. You might want to take a peek.

    • Wow. As with most data dumps, there is truth and trash mixed into one large pile.

    • Real Party in Interest

      Agreed. There is little in those comments I would want to bring into this forum, which has evolved into something much smarter … adult discussion focused on important issues for the branch.

  24. ComputerGeek: You speak to only the development of CMS software; however, maintenance and support is actually more important to the courts. Do you have a company with staff prepared to perform this function? The AOC was on the right track in 2003 before they diverted vendor funding to the CCMS project. WBF, I did not know that a vote is scheduled in the legislature next week on the need for a CCMS audit. I will contact my assemblyman today, and I urge other bloggers on this site to do the same.

  25. I can provide support. I have some people who could handle it easily. Also, people (both in and out of the IT/geek world) usually assume that maintenance and support are going to be huge operations. And they often are. Particularly when the software is difficult to use, has thousands of bugs, and is based on arcane code and powered by off-beat engines. CalWIN is a classic example. Also CBMS, TIERS, CMIPS, etc. People frequently assume that what they have seen in the past over and over is the norm or just must be required. This is what Professor Stanovich describes in his book What Intelligence Tests Miss as confirming or “proving” a theory or hypothesis by looking only at the positives. He points out you must also look for the presence or any negatives. It is not necessarily true that tech help will be requested by thousands of people.

  26. Oh, and P.S. Probably 99+% of help requests can be handled by local IT people, assuming of course that the software has no bugs. That last assumption is the overwhelmingly primary difference between a smooth operation and what has been observed in projects like CalWIN, CBMS, TIERS, etc. When people forget local passwords, spill coffee on their keyboard, can’t remember where to find a command on a standard menu, admit they accidentally deleted their copy of the User’s Manual, accidentally deleted a file (OMG can you get it back for me from your backup copy?!!!) etc., all of those matters can be handled in seconds by local IT people.

  27. TooBigToFail, I have an interesting question for you. Have you ever dealt personally with management of software that either had no bugs in it at all or only had one or two minor, obscure bugs? I’m guessing you work in or around IT.

  28. ComputerGeek: I began my career as a software developer and moved into project management. I have experience both as a developer and project manager on large-scale, mission-critical IT projects. I’ve managed a staff of technical folks responsible for the maintenance/support and enhancement of highly visible software applications. Trial court case management applications that are robust and feature rich are not easy to develop, maintain, and enhance no matter how much negative testing one performs. That’s why COTS products are a large part of the software marketplace.

  29. I understand the project manager part but that’s not exactly what I was targeting. Have you been in a help desk or tech help position where you have been asked for help with some software? If so, reflect for a moment on what types of questions you were asked. What percentage were you able to take care of in situations where you were the local IT person or maybe just the office guru that everyone came to but not the person who developed the code?

  30. Everyone here should be interested in this vote. We should lobby our representatives just as hard to vote in favor of an audit as we know the AOC is lobbying against it.

    I just contacted my State Senator and Assemblyperson via email and am following up with a phone call.

    Something’s gotta give.

  31. Go Delilah!
    And BTW, are there any bloggers besides TooBigToFail who might have worked in a position where they were called on to provide tech help? Particularly at the local level as opposed to the manufacturer level. Show of hands? What types of questions were most common? What percentage went beyond your local skills level?

  32. Delilah: I, too, have contacted my state senator and assemblyperson via email. I’ve also been in touch with a reporter from the Bee to see if he will publicize the upcoming vote on the audit.

  33. Does anyone know the names of the members of the Audit Committee? We should be pressing these folks hard before the vote.

  34. I don’t know if this is the right committee, but with a phone call they could confirm it for you:

  35. PattyJaneSmith

    It is the right Committee.

  36. JusticeCalifornia

    I am responding to Judge Dredd’s comment about removing Ron George as chief justice.

    An old saying is being bandied about– “If we complain about the tune, there is no reason to attack the monkey when the organ grinder is present.” The organ grinder of the judicial branch is Ron George. He plays the tune for the Judicial Council and the AOC.

    George is the head of CA’s massive, $4 billion judicial empire, and he has virtually no oversight. I don’t think anyone would dispute that he likes it that way.

    So here are the questions: do you like where Ron George is taking the judicial branch? Do you trust the judicial branch’s top leadership? Are you confident the $4 billion per year is being well managed, and well-spent? Do you, as a judge, feel more respected, or less respected, than you did 12 years ago? Do you enjoy your job more, or less, than you did 12 years ago? Do you like being directed to be more political than you might care to be? Tell the truth—even as a judge, aren’t you worried about saying what you really think about where the judicial branch is headed, if you disagree with Ron? Aren’t you a little (or a lot) worried about retaliation from leadership if you rock the boat?
    If a survey of the public (including your friends, family and colleagues) were to be performed right now, do you believe the public’s trust in the judiciary and its leadership would be higher or lower than in was 12 years ago?

    Think about the questions posed above, and then, think about this: if you think it’s bad now, how do you think it’s going to be if George stays in power for another 12 years? Consider some of the people he is surrounding himself, and “creating policy” with, to wit:

    One of George’s latest appointments to the Judicial Council is Marin County’s Court Executive Officer, Kim Turner. Turner became CEO after her boss, former Marin CEO John Montgomery, was arrested on 10 felony counts of conflict of interest, for funneling over $650,000 in court contracts to his live-in girlfriend, a computer IT consultant. Turner was criticized several years ago by the Judicial Council for waiting so long to report Mr.Montgomery (whom she has described as her “friend” and “boss extraordinaire”), and for signing off on some of his improper expenditures.

    The judicial branch needs new leadership, if it hopes to rebuild trust, respect and unity. George has to go, and what he should do is retire, for the good of the branch. It is in his own self-interest, too. If he retires now, he can go on the speaking circuit; if he is voted out it will be the humiliating shot across the bow heard round the country. If he manages to stay in, public dissent and mistrust of the judicial branch as a whole will grow.

    By the way, I am voting no on Ming Chin, as well. As another person previously said, he appears to be in lockstep with George, and working furiously to “make policy”. Just my opinion.