Legislative Committee Approves Audit of CCMS

Critics of the AOC’s CCMS software program got handed a major win yesterday when the Joint Legislative Audit Committee voted unanimously to request an audit of the California Case Management System or CCMS. The request will now go to State Auditor Elaine Howle who is expected to begin her audit some time in April after the state’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) turns in his own report on CCMS next month.

The push for an audit of CCMS got interesting last week when The Recorder broke the news that the AOC was actively campaigning in Sacramento against an audit of CCMS. Joining in on the anti-audit of CCMS campaign were members of the Judicial Council as well who argued to members of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee that an audit would only duplicate the work being done by the CIO. But that wasn’t their only complaint about an audit. Quoting from the this morning’s Recorder article, “The judicial lobbyists also complained that a new audit would pull Administrative Office of the Courts staffers away from their work on the CCMS network.” To which I would reply, given that it’s taken you people almost ten years to get the thing off the ground, a little more extra time certainly won’t hurt!

Speaking before the committee, Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, (D) argued in favor of the audit.  “There’s too much uncertainty, too many moving pieces, too much money at stake.”

But even though the committee voted to request an audit, they made it clear that it was not their intention to either derail or pull the plug on CCMS.

From The Recorder:

Lawmakers were quick to add that while they want greater oversight of the CCMS devlopment, they don’t want to pull the plug on the project.

And from the Daily Journal

Senator Denise Duchany, D-San Diego, voted for the audit but said she had concerns that critics were only seeking to derail a needed system.

Also speaking in favor of an audit was Sacramento County Superior Court Judge and Alliance of California Judges member Maryanne Gilliard.  “You need to understand this project started out as a no bid, sole source project.  Please do your job.  Be a public guardian of the public trust.”

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121 responses to “Legislative Committee Approves Audit of CCMS

  1. This is awesome!

    Now the fight really begins. As said on this blog, the CJ will not take this lying down. This potentially could lead to a major legal battle in my view. All of course in the interest of maintaining that the judicial branch is a seperate and equal branch government and that the IT Director and the legislature have no authority to audit branch business. We shall see.

    Thanks to all of you that have connections for contacting them. I am sure your efforts are what caused the sea change in this vote.

    • “Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped, and battle hardened. He will fight savagely.” — General Dwight David Eisenhower, June 6 1944.

      My money is still on the allies, which in this case would be the ACJ and those who stand with them.

    • I would be surprised if the Judicial Council or the AOC fights the audit. In my experience with the Bureau of State Audits, there’s really no legal basis for challenging its authority to audit any government agency it chooses. I’m sure the Judicial Council and the AOC know that.

  2. Courtflea,

    Is the AOC a separate branch of government like the courts or an administrative office under the legislature?

    • The AOC is part of the Judicial Branch, along with the trial and appellate courts, the Judicial Council, the CJP, and the Habeas Corpus Resource Center. It is in no way a part of the Legislature, although that doesn’t mean it (or the courts, or any other part of the Judicial Branch) can’t be audited. The Bureau of State Audits can audit any governmental entity in California, at any level.

  3. Real Party in Interest

    There is nothing the AOC can do to stop the audit (nor should they even try). The whole point is to restore some sense of confidence in government and to be accountable. Everyone supports the goal of a statewide case management system for the courts. No one supports “spending whatever it takes” to reach that goal, unless you work for Deloitte Consulting.

  4. What exactly is the auditor going to do?

  5. Real Party in Interest

    http://www.bsa.ca.gov/pdfs/analyses/2010-102.pdf

    2010-102 AUDIT SCOPE AND OBJECTIVES — Administrative Office of the Courts’
    California Court Case Management System

    The audit by the Bureau of State Audits will provide independently developed and
    verified information related to the Administrative Office of the Courts’ oversight and development of the California Court Case Management System. The audit would
    include, but not be limited to, the following:
    1. Review and evaluate the laws, rules, and regulations significant to the audit
    objectives.
    2. Determine the goals of the CCMS and how they were defined. Determine if the
    original goals have been refined and when such refinements occurred. In addition,
    determine if such refinements have been integrated with existing estimates and plans.
    3. Evaluate AOC’s method for determining the annual budget for the CCMS and the
    extent to which it considers its other priorities, particularly given the recent
    reductions in state resources. Compare the proportion of the annual expenditures for
    the CCMS to the overall annual budget of the AOC.
    4. Identify the original cost estimates or budget for the system, the actual amount spent
    to date, as well as the budget and time projections to complete the system. Determine
    whether the actual expenditures to date have accomplished the respective goals
    anticipated for the amount spent and contrast budgeted expenditures to date with
    actual expenditures.
    5. Determine whether the AOC has a process to ensure the goals for the CCMS are
    being met and continue to best serve the needs of the Judicial Branch. Determine
    whether AOC’s monitoring process also identifies project costs and any milestones to
    allow for timely adjustments when necessary.
    6. Determine if the current contractors’ scopes of work are sufficient to complete the
    CCMS project.
    7. Determine if the plan for the CCMS contains a clear path for completing the project,
    including key milestones, their estimated costs and completion times. Assess whether
    projected costs and deadlines are attainable.
    8. Review and assess any other significant issues that are relevant to the CCMS.

  6. H Sanders, Judge Dredd explained it well.

    I hope you are right real party in interest. except thusfar, the AOC or the CJ has done nothing to restore folks confidence in the branch. In fact just the oposite as evidenced in JC meetings and the CJ response to ACJ regarding E&P meetings.

    But like Wendy, my money is with the Alliance.

    Good question Puzzled..does anyone know what exactly this audit will entail? Judge Dredd, perhaps with your experience, you would know? Like making sure the AOC followed standard accounting proceedures? Stuck to their own financial policies are procedures manual? An “operational” audit? And frankly since the AOC has not been forthcoming in all requests for information, either from the ACJ or whistleblowing employees, so why should they cooperate?

    • I wish I knew, but all I know about this audit is what I read in the papers. You can go on the BSA’s web page and read past audit reports, though. That gives a general idea of how they operate and what they look at.

  7. Real Party in Interest

    Why should they cooperate? To show the entire state that there is nothing to hide and that — warts and all — they will cooperate with BSA and comply with every single aspect of the audit. It’s good government, and I do have faith that the AOC will do the right thing.

  8. PattyJaneSmith

    There is no legal basis to challenge the audit. The AOC is not constitutionally a part of the judiciary. They can be given authority and direction by the Legislature. In fact, the Judicial Council can not adopt rules of court that are inconsistent with any statutes. The Legislature has unquestionable authority to direct this audit and more. At this point, I don’t think the AOC wants to push the Legislature on the question of their authority.

    • I’m not sure I understand your point about the AOC being a part of the Judicial Branch, but that doesn’t matter. The BSA could audit the Supreme Court itself if it wanted to. Separation of powers really doesn’t come into it as far as I can tell.

  9. I was at the hearing and it was an interesting experience.

    It was tense until the vote came back in the afternoon and it passed.

  10. Real Party in Interest

    I can only imagine (that it was tense). I’m sure Justice Bruniers was disappointed, but JLAC did the right thing. The CIO report will come out in March, and then the audit will begin. It’s not ideal for Justices George and Chin, but nothing is ideal these days in California government.

  11. PattyJaneSmith

    Judge Dredd – my point was merely to point out what you said – there is no issue regarding the separation of powers especially since the Adminstrative Offices of the Courts is not included in Article 6. Therefore, there is no question on the seperation of powers issue with respect to the AOC. That’s all I was trying to point out.

  12. The approval of the audit is done, but the fight is not over. The AOC hopes that this issue will fade into the background and the audit will be forgotten about like so many others. (Think of any others in the past that made a big deal once completed?) Remember also that this is an election year and along with the budget fights, the problems and issues raised herein and elsewhere over the previous couple of months will shrink in importance at the capitol. It is up to the judges, employees and unions to keep the pressure on or this victory will be a short lived and quickly forgotten. Don’t mean to be a downer but a lot more work is necessary from everyone or the ‘evil empire’ will reign on and start picking off one by one anyone who stood up to them during this critical time. In other words, it was a great battle to win, but the war is still with us and the outcome uncertain.

    Congratulations to eveyone who has done so much in such a short time. Let’s hope the energy level remains.

  13. Eww Real Party in Interest: then the AOC is screwed in that audit process! Lets see if honesty is the best policy…..

    I hope you are right in your optimistic outlook that the AOC will choose to cooperate for the reasons you mention. We shall see!

  14. “Now this is not the end.
    It is not even the beginning of the end.
    But, it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

    These words from Winston Churchill should be taken to heart by everyone. Pacwest50 is spot on: yesterday was wonderful but it is, perhaps, at best, the end of the beginning.

    We are taking the first steps down a long and difficult road. Much remains to be done.

  15. I have to agree. It is innocent until proven guilty, remember? The AOC has an opportunity to regain confidence with the branch here with full disclosure. Either they take that road and take their lumps, or they fuss and hide and make things worse. It’s a no brainer to comply 100% but yes, everyone will be watching. The ball is in their court and they should serve up some humble pie and accountability.

  16. JusticeCalifornia

    Tuesday, June 13, 2006

    Page 1

    ‘Tim’ McCoy Running Unopposed in Election for Superior Court Assistant Presiding Judge

    By TINA BAY, Staff Writer

    Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles “Tim” McCoy Jr. is likely to win unopposed for assistant presiding judge of the court for 2007 and 2008, Presiding Judge William McLaughlin said yesterday.

    McCoy will likely run unopposed because candidates normally announce their candidacy in the spring and there has not recently been talk around the courthouse of another candidate, the presiding judge said.

    But he is not officially unopposed, McLaughlin explained, since nominations for the position are not actually made until the end of September.

    McCoy released a “Dear Colleague” letter on May 22 announcing his candidacy for the internal election, which will take place at the beginning of October per Local Rule 1.3.

    Not Political Campaign

    McCoy shared his thoughts on the position in an interview yesterday with the MetNews.

    “I do not see this as a political campaign and I don’t think the judges view it that way either,” McCoy said, “because we all just want what’s best for the court.”

    McLaughlin and Assistant Presiding Judge J. Stephen Czuleger encouraged him at the end of 2005 to consider running for the position, McCoy said. The primary reason, he explained, is that he has had a number of positions over the years that have given him a rich understanding of the court and its role locally and statewide, for example his experience as managing judge of the complex litigation courts.

    “I thought about [whether to run] for many days because this is one of the most difficult leadership positions I’ve ever encountered. The challenges to our court system are enormous,” McCoy said.

    Judicial Council Member

    Presently in his second year as the civil supervising judge at the Stanley Mosk courthouse, McCoy is also a member of the Judicial Council of California, to which he was appointed last year by Chief Justice Ronald M. George. He has been a member of the council’s executive legislative action network since 2001.

    Additionally, he is a member of the Executive Committee of the Litigation Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association.

    McCoy’s prior judicial experience includes service in the California Judges Association from 1996 to 1999 and the court’s governing Executive Committee from 1994 to 1996, as well as involvement in 16 different judicial committees, five of which he has chaired.

    As assistant presiding judge, McCoy would support the work of Czuleger, who is expected to take over as presiding judge on Jan.1. McCoy’s role as assistant presiding judge would by tradition lead him to become presiding judge after Czuleger’s term ends.

    “I have known Czuleger for many years. I work well with him,” McCoy said.

    He said his two priorities as assistant supervising judge would be to support and advise Czuleger and to continue playing an active role in the Judicial Council of California.

    “While I don’t ‘represent’ the Los Angeles Superior Court, I do make sure that our experience is heard and fully considered when important decisions are made by the judicial council. We as a court have been successful in persuading the judicial council to place some of our best people on judicial council committees and the judicial council itself,” McCoy said.

    He explained that the council is about to install three new members from Los Angeles County: Judge Carolyn B. Kuhl, supervising judge of the complex litigation courts; Judge Peter Espinoza, supervising judge of the Norwalk-based southeast district and the next expected assistant supervising judge of criminal courts; and Judge Terry Friedman, who sits in Santa Monica and is president of the California Judges Association.

    “Los Angeles is going to have four members now, which is very important and encouraging from our perspective,” McCoy said.

    While it is not the assistant presiding judge’s role to set priorities for the court, McCoy said he is interested in seeing the court tackle funding, facility, and technology issues.

    “Our court needs stable funding and that’s proved in the last few years to be a real challenge for the Los Angeles Superior Court system,” he said.

    In addition, McCoy said court facilities are becoming a larger problem for the county. “The political system has not yet resolved how they’re going to maintain the courthouses we have and build new ones as we need them—and we are going to need them, because L.A. is growing. When Mosk was built in the 1950s, it was built to last 100 years. That seems like a long time, but in the scheme of public service, the 2050s are not far away.”

    McCoy also explained that the court’s current DOS-based case management system, developed in the 1970s as a patchwork of software from various different local agencies, is “way behind the times.” He said that he has been an advocate of bringing technological improvements to Los Angeles courts, and hopes to see the court come to accommodate digital, internet-based filing and service.

    During his term as assistant presiding judge, he said he would participate in the evaluation and implementation of the California Case Management System, new software developed by the judicial council in consultation with Deloitte and Touche and administrators and judges statewide.

    “We’re getting ready soon to roll it out and test it in some phase of our system. It’s very important that L.A. be a leader in implementing this, and we are going to do that,” McCoy said. “This revolution is going to happen in the next five years, so I’ll be deeply involved in it.”

    Despite his macro-level institutional concerns, McCoy said his vision is centered on individual courtrooms, judges, and court staff members.

    “My leadership focus is supporting and encouraging those who directly provide services to the public. I am an extrovert and I value friendships and colleagues. I’m an encourager and like lawyers, judges, and people,” McCoy said.

    Edith Matthai, president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, told the MetNews, “[McCoy] has done a really nice job as supervising judge, and the thing that I have very much appreciated from the bar side is that he’s been very responsive to issues that we have brought to the court.”

    McCoy, 59,was appointed to the court in 1992 by then-Gov. Pete Wilson.

    Before coming to the bench, he served as chief of staff to Matthew Fong when Fong was a member of the State Board of Equalization, and was a partner in Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton’s Los Angeles office, where he practiced for 17 years.

    McCoy graduated from Purdue University in 1968 and from University of Texas School of Law in 1975. He spent four years prior to law school serving as a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps, and received a Navy Commendation Medal for his service in Vietnam.

  17. Real Party in Interest

    Ah, the good ‘ol days of 2006. Things were going to be great back then … fast computers … beautiful buildings … everyone thinner and beautiful … I have a dream. 🙂

    Is McCoy running for Chief Justice? Or is the Chief going mano a mano with Judge McCoy? At some point, I am sure everyone would love to know who is running this site. Can there be a big reveal on the 4th of July?

  18. Another question to those that may know this stuff: so what happens if the auditors find that the AOC did some really bad stuff? I am assuming that cutting off of funds for CCMS and the AOC/CJ/JC dealing with any political fall out are some likely outcomes in this senario.

    Innocent until proven guilty? I agree sort of, I just hope there is some venue where it can be proven either way AND have there be some ramifications if they have abused their role/authority. But remember, this is not a criminal trial (at least not so far), so the bar is not the same there is no finding of guilt or innocence. This is fact finding. What also would be ineresting if it is found as a result of this audit that some criminal act may have occurred, who would prosecute since the AG has said they have no authority over the judicial branch? Just askin, not accusing.

  19. I guess I am having trouble figuring out who in the governance of the Judicial branch authorized the Chief Justice and others to lobby against an audit of CCMS. As best I can see no Judicial Council meeting and related discussion dealt with this issue.Moreover when it came time for the legislature to address the issue, Justice Bruiners and an AOC staffer appeared to object to the audit! How did that happen? Who directed , encouraged or facilitated the Justice to do that?
    All of this raises much larger questions surrounding how vital policy decisions are made in the judicial branch. Perhaps the legislature should convene an oversight hearing that addresses these issues .Perhaps individual members of the Judicial Council should ask who authorized that the Chief and Justice Bruiners among others speak for the branch and object to a CCMS audit? In the end it certainly didn’t look good for the Chief to be objecting to something as basic to good government as a healthy audit .

  20. What if, as a result of the audit, the Legislature chooses to reduces the branch’s budget by the amount needed for CCMS *and* that ends up on top of any reductions the branch takes for 10/11? Won’t we be in worse spot?

    I am confused about Judge Gilliard’s statement regarding CCMS being a no-bid project. The AOC’s website shows an RFP in 2002 for CCMS ( http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/reference/rfp/courtcms.htm ) so it looks like it went out to bid. Does anyone know what she is referring to?

  21. I guess I have the same questions as Courtflea. If the Auditor decides the AOC made mistakes and that CCMS is a mess, then what?

  22. Real Party in Interest

    007:

    She is referring to the $95 million no-bid contract for Deloitte to develop V4 for all case types, that was awarded in June 2007. The AOC did not want to put the project out to bid so they sole sourced Deloitte Consulting.

  23. Real Party in Interest

    As for what will happen as a result of the audit, there will be a public report with findings. It will probably detail amounts of money spent, how it was spent, what controls were in place (or not), and what funding exists (if any) to finish the project. You have to let the process play out. I would suggest moving on to another topic, unless there is some indication that there will be resistance to an audit.

  24. 007

    In May 2006 the AOC sole sourced the contract for development of the V4 system to Deloitte.

  25. JusticeCalifornia

    I would like to carefully comment on the question of “who’s in charge”. I do not know how many of you are familiar with Senate Bill X2 11 (also known as SBX211), but it was emergency legislation put forth and passed in the middle of the budget crisis last year. According to a 12/15/09 report issued by the Judicial Council, after the Court of Appeal in Sturgeon v. County of Los Angeles (2008) 167 Cal.App.4th 630 found that extra benefits paid by Los Angeles to its judges were not legal, the “judicial branch sought legislation, Senate Bill X2 11.”

    According to the 12/15/09 report, here is how the legislation came about: “In response to the Sturgeon case, the California Judges Association, the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, several judicial leaders and the Administrative Office of the Courts worked together to propose legislation that would adequately prescribe supplemental benefits”.

    Well, the public and the press were pretty angry about this, because LA judges were getting upwards of $46,000 per year each in extra benefits, while courts were going through an economic crisis. There was no opportunity for public –or, for that matter, members of the judicial branch–to comment on the emergency legislation.

    The legislature passed the emergency legislation, and directed the Judicial Council to report on each county’s payment of benefits. That data is contained in Exhibit D to the 12/15/09 report. Of the total $30,602,542 paid by all counties to CA judges, $23,482,932 was paid by Los Angeles County to Los Angeles County Judges. According to the report there are 436 judges in LA, so you can do the math (over 50K per judge, including cash supplements.) No other county came anywhere close to this level of benefits.

    From the public’s perspective, this doesn’t look right. The same question is asked: who authorized the Judicial Council’s involvement, with LA judges, in getting these hefty benefits protected (making LA judges some of the highest paid judges in the country), on an emergency basis, via emergency legislation?

    I am not a judge, and don’t want to interfere with this blog, but I have studied the California Courts website, and the reports and bulletins coming out of the “Judicial Council”, many of which are misleading. I do not believe that all members of the Judicial Council are given all salient information before being asked to vote; and, having attended JC meetings, notice that huge binders of material with last minute reports and updates are handed out the day of the meeting. There is palpable pressure during some of the votes, not to dissent.

    But the public does not know that, and does not know that what the CJ, JC and AOC are promoting is not necessarily representative of what others in the judicial branch believe or want, and the public is going to blame the branch as a whole for the actions of a few.

    So getting at who is in charge, and making sure all judges’ views are represented, is really important for the integrity of the branch.

    By the way, the report is entitled “Historical Analysis of Disparities in Judicial Benefits”.

    • I appreciate you raising this topic. I have no idea what was going on with this legislation. There are a number of judges who post here, so perhaps they can share their insight.

  26. leave this hot topic alone for now? no way! too interesting and precident setting to ignore!

  27. Real Party in Interest

    Indeed. What’s up with the reach arounds on the court of appeal? Transparency is a precious commodity.

  28. As part of the lobbying process, the L.A. Superior Court hired a lobbyist to protect the additional judicial benefits. As the Judges are not court employees, I found that a little strange.

    I find the rationale for the benefits a bit specious. If it is so difficult to attract/retain judges in LA for the $178K salary, does this mean that judges in other high-cost areas (SF, East Bay, Orange Co.) who don’t receive these additional benefits aren’t as qualifed? Being a judge is good gig and if you can’t support your lifestyle on $178K a year, then maybe you shouldn’t become a judge. Stay in private practice and make more money. There are over 100,000 attorneys in California. I would not be concerned about finding a qualified replacement.

  29. Thank you WBF. And thank you JusticeCalifornia for showing how easy it is in 2010 to flick a switch and shine a light.

    This is why the AOC has to take the audit very seriously. The jobs, programs and funding for everyone in the agency is now impacted. When you have employees who can testify that standard procedures were not followed, you don’t want to mess around with BSA. Out of decency and respect for all 900 employees, and for the branch and public, I ask the Chief Justice to make a motion for the Judicial Council to vote that the AOC will 100% comply with this audit. I would sign my name to this request, but I can’t.

  30. Just an FYI regarding the extra benefits that judges get – it is not just judges in LA who gets them. As I recall the discussions around the Sturgeon case and the subsequent legislation referred to above, judges in approximately 30 counties get extras, including Orange County and other high cost counties. Judges earn the same in every county so if you live in Modoc county and earn the same as a judge in LA, you’re living pretty large up in Modoc. The real winners are the judges who live in lower cost counties and who happen to also get the extras. Whether you think these extras are fair or not, they’ve been around for a long time and the issue is moot anyway. No sense in beating a dead horse….

  31. Regarding Senate Bill X2 11: Those interested may also be interested to learn what types of retroactive legal protections that emergency legislation afforded to judges with regard to their additional benefits. It’s not always “just about the money”…though, admittedly, it usually is.

    Regarding audit: I fully agree with the sentiment here that we stand at the precipice of only the end of the beginning. Remain strong and vigilant; keep your chins up, eyes clear, and ears open. Some may have faith that the AOC will cooperate. I have more faith in those of us standing strong all the way through to completion – whatever that may be.

  32. To me it is less about money, and more about appearance, and what a court of appeal decision is worth. If you just turn around and lobby and pass legislation, it sends a horrible message to the public. Was the decision appealed to the California Supreme Court?

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      It was appealed to the California Supreme Court who declined to hear it in December of 2008. Shortly thereafter SBx211, sponsored by the AOC was introduced by Darrell Steinberg and later passed into law retroactively granting amnesty to judges for accepting what some term extra-judicial payments. It’s a controversial issue to the public and within the legal community.

      • And I would imagine too for anyone who is being laid off, or voluntarily gave up five percent of their salary for six months to ostensibly help the California judicial branch.

      • I don’t think it’s entirely accurate to imply that the AOC and Steinberg were solely responsible, without also mentioning the intense political pressure brought to bear by the LA Superior Court. Please don’t fool yourselves into thinking that the LA bench is a minor player in all of these issues being discussed on this blog (CCMS, local court autonomy, and the like).

      • I have no delusisons regarding that reality. I will only note that the lines get very blurry regarding governance vs. lobbying when you have members of the Legislature, interested parties and/or presidents of CJA sitting on your Council.

        Do you know Judge Dredd whether the AOC is exempt from reporting its lobbying activity on behalf of the Judicial Council and/or judicial branch?

  33. It’s also proudly mentioned herein as part of a successful lobbying effort.

    http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/courtadmin/aoc/documents/capcon-fall09.pdf

  34. Real Party in Interest

    Yes, it was appealed (for a little over 30 days). Case closed.

    Supreme Court Case: S168408
    Court of Appeal Case(s): Fourth Appellate District, Division One
    D050832
    Case Caption: STURGEON v. COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES
    Case Category: Review – Civil Appeal
    Start Date: 11/19/2008
    Case Status: case closed
    Issues: none
    Disposition Date: 12/23/2008
    Case Citation: none

  35. Thank you Real Party. I forgot the AOC actually does have a good California case management system for supreme court files:

    12/23/2008 Petition for review denied The application to appear as counsel pro hac vice is granted. The petition for review is denied. Werdegar, J., was absent and did not participate.

  36. Real Party in Interest

    And if review was denied, it does beg the question: who IS running the show? The Supreme Court or the Judicial Council or neither? In this instance, interested judges, lobbyists (including Mr. Child) and the Legislature.

  37. You know right that Curt Child was registered as a lobbyist when he worked for the National Youth Center for Yout Law? Is the AOC / JC exempt from lobbyist or lobbyist employer reporting?

    And I might suggest a name change AOCW: Judicial Branch Watcher

  38. (red face)

    National Center for Youth Law

  39. I don’t know if this matters to anyone but me, but how can Baxter and George sit on the Council and approve efforts to pass legislation contrary to case where that have denied review? Do they suddenly lose their justice hat like a super hero and become “just” a Council member? Yikes.

  40. Sorry, “contrary to a case where they have denied review.” I can’t type either.

  41. Since the Sturgeon case is actually still pending litigation, notwithstanding what many of you appear to believe, I cannot comment on it, nor can any sitting judge.

    I can say this, however. Look at what is going on here–immediately upon the vote for the audit, which was bitterly opposed by the AOC, an article appears in this thread from years ago, in a backhanded slap at LA judge McCoy. Then LA benefits become the topic. Again, the wedge issues are put out there to divide court from court, judge from judge. I have seen it before, many times in my 22 year career. The source is always, always, the same. Right out of the same, tired playbook. Just be aware of how many times this tactic has been used.

    • Line staff employees are well versed in the AOC’s penchant for “divide and conquer”, Judge Horan, and are not fooled by this tactic. So much for any pretense that Vickrey and the AOC have any shred of credibility left.

    • Real Party in Interest

      Judge Horan:

      Without commenting on the case, can you share with those of us who know very little about the Sturgeon case where it is currently pending? TIA.

    • Judge Horan,

      Perhaps you could enlighten us as to what the LA Superior Court has done for the Judicial Branch as a whole lately. For those of us who get our news only from the Recorder, the Daily Journal, and “on the ground,” i.e., as attorneys practicing in the various courts across the state, it’s difficult to view that court in any sort of sympathetic light, IMO. The appearance that is given (right, wrong, or otherwise) is that LA is looking out only for LA; if other courts benefit in LA’s wake, fine, but if not, so be it. Again, that’s how, IMO, it “plays in Peoria.” The move now seems to be to set the Judicial Council and AOC up in place as the “big bad” in place of LA, but I think that those of us who have been haunting the courtrooms of the state for some time are, for better or worse, a little cynical about that.

      Again, this is the point of view of one attorney only, but one who has been in a lot of courtrooms over the course of a lot of years.

      • What a load of crap Judge_Dredd. Once again you have shown your true colors. What has LA done lately is just another pathetic attempt to divert attention “away from CCMS, away from the audit and away from AOC oversight” as was put so well by Sunshine. Tell Ron-O, Darth Vickery and the King that we are not biting.

      • JD, I don’t know what has happened to you to cause you to dislike a court of several hundred judges, but as a widely traveled lawyer you are free to rank LA wherever you’d like in your list of 58. I personally think it’s a great court–innovative, adaptable, with experts every subject imaginable on our bench. Great comeraderie, wonderful staff, and a huge variety of assignments and cases. We offer an incredibly wide range of educational programs to our judges, at zero expense to the branch. We have been blessed with great leadership for the past many years, and I like and respect each of my colleagues. Best of all, I serve on that court. Even the Chief Justice is an LA grad. lol

        I think you are trying very hard to sell a losing case here by diverting attention from some horrific problems at the Council/AOC level. That’s your prerogative, but I’ve got to tell you, we’ve all seen it before.

  42. Well put Judge Horan. I noticed that change as well and warned in an earlier post against losing direction after the audit victory. No doubt this new discussion may be interesting to some, but it will be reported on Monday at AOC headquarters as the uninformed midnight bloggers turning on each other. AOC needs to have their audit crash and burn out of the headlines. Turning on some of those that got us to this point does just that and makes the Chief and Bill Vickrey very happy. Going after any one court and attacking them is right out of the AOC playbook! Think about it.

    • Real Party in Interest

      I would not worry about spin. Most AOC employees were caught off-guard by the Legislature’s decision to audit.

  43. To me, it only points out the complexities. I am an AOC employee, you are a judge. We are supposed to be one judicial branch. Not LA vs. the AOC, or court vs. court … one branch. There needs to be a broad focus on getting to a point where all courts AND everyone in the AOC feels like it is one branch. The AOC is not going to be dismantled, nor will the Chief Justice stop doing his job, nor will courts stop hearing cases. There needs to be room for reasonable dialogue, education at all levels, and patience for real consensus and change to occur.

  44. Well, yes, we are one branch, but that does not mean that we are, or should be, homogenized or run from the top down. This is a court system constitutionally mandated to consist of 58 separate courts, no matter how much the AOC seems to wish it were otherwise. A friend sent me the following, and I have a hard time disagreeing with most of it. Hope he won’t mind me posting it:

    “Some have accused the judges of longing for a return to a fragmented system where local judges ruled their own courts. This accusation ignores the obvious history. County-funded courts were never independent fiefdoms. They were dependent on their local county governments. The difference between then and now is that then, someone listened. While the nature of the 58 county-court relationships varied widely across the state, and some were definitely strained, it is hard to believe that many of them were any more one-sided than the current relationship between the Judicial Council/AOC and the 58 courts. Then, at least, the courts had a status as a key player in the justice community, however, tenuously that might translate into branch parity. Now the courts have absolutely no status vis-a-vis the council. Their voices are heard, and their needs communicated, if at all, through a patchwork of advisory committees whose memberships are controlled by the AOC and the Chief Justice, and whose deliberations and decisions have absolutely no formal weight with those who have appointed themselves the policy-makers for the courts.

    More important, if the county government did not served their citizens well; if they failed to support their county courts, they were answerable to the local populace for it. But the Chief Justice and the staff of the AOC are answerable to no one for their support — or failed support — of the trial courts. County Supervisors had an interest in the quality of the justice in their county. However, lacking any responsibility for the work of the courts — the millions of cases the branch must address each year — the council and AOC naturally find their interests diverging from those of the courts which the Constitution says they serve. Thus, for instance, it is natural for them to come to see long-term infrastructure as more important than the day-to-day work of the courts — they are in no way accountable for the performance of the latter, but can take credit only for the “legacy” of capital projects they might leave behind.

    Restoring appropriate governance requires restoring appropriate accountability. The only chain of accountability that can work is one that runs through the 58 local courts to the people within each county who bring the judicial branch to life by electing their local judges. That is the only way to create a governance system that can root out incompetence and corruption, that will maintain its credibility with the other branches of government, and that has a hope of supporting the diverse needs of the California trial courts. ”

    ———-

    Now, back to my thoughts–I don’t reckon we will, or perhaps even should, ever return to a local funding system. However, we cannot tolerate the governance structure in place now. Ask yourself, honestly–to whom are the two or three most power people in the branch accountable?

    We have a representative democracy in this country. We have, sadly, allowed our state judiciary to become the least democratic branch of government. Judges are accountable through election, but those who control things at the very top of our branch are unaccountable. Council members are chosen by one man, and it is not a deliberative body in any sense, though we expected to pretend that it is. 6 non-unanimous votes in 13 years of Council minutes–that about says it all.

    Just my two cents–albeit a long two! lol

  45. Judge Horan, Thanks again for Your awesome insights. You and Your friend have identified the most important issue facing the California court system- the lack of democracy within our branch.I have raised this same issue before and believe the problem is rooted in the Chief’s ability to appoint the vast majority of the Judicial Council. 6 non-unanimous votes in 13 years ( 2 of those occurred in the last 6 months) speaks volumes as to the lack of open diverse deliberations that are so vital to the success of our democracy. Sadly though it doesn’t appear to end there. Judicial Council rules enforced at the time of the recent decision regarding court closures requiring that any comment submitted to the Judicial Council be reviewed by staff counsel and limiting public comments to a mere 3 minutes per speaker also shows how far our branch leadership has strayed from basic democratic principles. Finally as pointed out above, I am still puzzled by the apparent roles of the Chief and Justice Bruiners in lobbying against an audit of CCMS as there is no public Judicial Council decision in that regard.This would support Your conclusion that “those who control things at the very top of our branch are unaccountable”.

  46. Nathaniel Woodhull

    As always, Chuck and Lando are right on target.
    The Chief’s rules are: 1) The Judicial Branch must speak with one voice; 2) The Judicial Council is the “policymaking” body for the Courts in California; 3) The Chief is the only voice that may speak for the Courts.
    Anyone who questions these edicts is: a) Shrill; b) Uninformed; c) Someone who wants to bring back the 58 fiefdoms that were in existence before the Chief arrived in 1996; or d) Is not concerned about “access to justice” or e) all of the above.
    For someone who has worked within the justice system for almost 40 years, I am none-of-the-above.
    This is not a dictatorship. It is not a totalitarian regime whose voice is controlled by Pravda. This is supposed to be a representative democracy. Problem in the Judicial Branch is simply that the “representatives” are those put in place by the Chief whom are happy to parrot his agenda to further their careers.
    I have no problem with standardization of rules and the like within the 58 counties to ensure that people are treated equally when seeking justice. Problem is, things are different in Alturas than they are in Quincy, which is different than Pasadena, and so on.
    The Judicial Council needs to be democratized and there needs to be an honest and open discussion about where we are going and how we are going to get there.
    CCMS and these Regional Parole Courts are two perfect examples.

  47. ConcernedReConsolidation

    Thank you, Judge Horan. We MUST take back our democracy. That is the essence of it.

  48. To the extent I contributed to a possible loss of focus with my earlier post re: judicial beneifts, I apologize.

    I agee with Judge Horan; the primary issue is one of governance. We may disagree on the specific issues. However, the problem with the current governance structure of the AOC/JC is a lack of opportunity to express divergent viewpoints in a transparent manner.

    To speak with “One Voice” requires the JC to invite and consider the perspectives of all stakeholders. If the JC is not willing to do this, it is not realistical for it to expect trial court, judges and AOC employees to fall in line.

    I think the JC/AOC’ is attempting to set up a straw man when it argues that anyone who disagrees with its policy longs for “the good old days” before unification and trial court funding. I have never heard anyone on this blog or elsewhere contend there should be a return to the way things were.

    The Trial Court Funding Act mandates the JC to adopt rules that ensure “decentralized” administriation of trial courts. Proponents of local control of trial courts are not waxing nostaglically. Local control of trial courts is required by existing law.

  49. Glad to see the astute commentary from Judge Horan who, like many of us, noted how suddenly in this thread the conversation shifted away from CCMS, away from the audit and away from AOC oversight.

    The audit isn’t going to start until April. Between now and then lets think about all the issues that our community of bloggers would like to see addressed by the state auditor.

    Maybe another thread? And, Mr. Computer Geek, while I have appreciated learning so much about technology from your input in other threads. This audit is fundamentally going to be about $$$, not how to build a better mousetrap.

    • Trust me Sunshine, I got the message earlier and thus stopped blogging. I will just keep silent unless a special forum is set up by AOC Watcher.

  50. Puzzled,

    I’m confused, you asked good questions about the audit…what will it entail and what happens if it uncovers problems?

  51. Obi-Wan Kenobi

    When I mention SBx211 which was passed last year, I’m not attempting to turn the tides on trial courts. Frankly as a citizen, I am appalled that the Supreme Court would decline to hear it and then give their administrative office marching orders to not only change the law but change it in a manner that the common citizen objects to.

    Regardless of who else lobbied to preserve these payments the bill eventually passed was introduced by the AOC without a whole lot of discussion or debate – that whole governance issue.

    Back to the subject at hand-
    I want to see all 96 amendments to said no-bid contract publicized and a cohesive explanation why there are so many people making work for themselves in this project. I wish to find out the difference between what deloitte is charging per hour for its programmers and how much it is paying their (largely H1B) programmers.

    There are allegations posted all over the internet about those who moved over from BearingPoint to Deloitte not getting paid monies due them from BearingPoint and Deloitte later purchasing BearingPoint. Was this money due these employees ever paid to them?

    Are these people being employed as independent contractors or employees?

    How much has this really cost thus far and how much is the projected costs and what contract provisions guarantee quality and delivery at a price certain? In terms of meaning, I believe this audit is a legislative vote of no confidence in the AOC’s ability to audit themselves.

  52. Real Party in Interest

    Because this blog is by definition anonymous, I would hope there is room for a multitude of voices. Some may be focused on the democratization of the Judicial Council, and others (like myself) are focused on more immediate governance issues (e.g., the need for an audit of CCMS, the reporting of Shapiro monies, whether the AOC is exempt from lobbying requirements, who pays Roger Warren’s salary, etc.). Are those issues of interest, or is this a blog only for people outside of the AOC who want to see the Council democratized?

  53. Real Party in Interest

    Not to mention genuine whistleblower protection for all AOC employees.

    • I think there is a very good possibility of success in that area. The trick is a carefully crafted bill with no poison pill slipped in byAOC that will engender resistance outside of AOC and thus kill any chance of success. Whistleblower protection is essential, IMHO.

  54. Nathaniel Woodhull

    Real Party in Interest:
    The specific issues that you raise are excellent points and I can understand your perspective. Many of us have been asking these specific questions for years. The answers received, directly or indirectly, from the Chief, Vickery, Overholt and their underlings, have been that these are issues for the Judicial Council or the AOC administration. Seems that we cannot get the answers to questions like do Ralph J. Shapiro donations to the JC/AOC create potential conflicts of interest (his background with Kleiner-Bell, etc.); why do we have “scholars in residence”, who pays for them and why do we need them; why is Clark Kelso’s salary from CDC funneled through the AOC; why are people still being hired by the AOC (although they deny it) during a freeze and when trial courts are being forced to lay off essential personnel; specifically who authorized the opposition to the CCMS audit and why (if the system is “wonderful” why wouldn’t you want the world to know it).
    Many of us want answers to the specific questions you raise, problem is we have come to realize that those answers are not going to be forthcoming without a restructuring of the branch’s administration.

  55. Real Party in Interest

    Thanks for listening.

  56. There’s no sense in playing any more cutesy games with monikers like ComputerGeek or Puzzled. I’ll leave that to my gang clients. I think most people here know who I am, that I write a column on computer technology for the Daily Recorder, was a gold copy tester for Windows, was an initial level Microsoft 800 number tester for MSN, handle criminal appeals, write software, created software that defies certain limitations stated in the Microsoft manuals, etc.

    When I saw what was happening with CCMS I was horrified. My concern extended way past just the technical aspects to the problems of the judicial budget being distorted, courts possibly going down if their ancient COBOL systems failed, court service to the public being diminished by poor expenditure of available funds, valuable court workers being laid off, the distinct possibility of the entire state law enforcement system being crippled if some of the stated goals of CCMS were put into place, and the general state budget being hit with billions in cost overruns after people at the AOC chase rainbows only to eventually realize that several of the stated goals in the materials posted on-line at the courtinfo Web site are likely impossible.

    That is why I offered to help by just creating a solution quickly so we could get past all this without extensive additional damage. I realize now that we aren’t at that stage yet. That is sad, but it’s reality. We need a lot more pain first. A whole lot.

    I frankly thought earlier that a lot of people had picked up the cues that there were fundamental errors in the CCMS technology (there are at least three HUGE errors) and that the AOC & Deloitte Consulting were chasing rainbows. I thought that the highly visible Los Angeles Unified School District experience would alert people to the high probability of huge problems with CCMS, no matter how much money is thrown at it. And people could just search the Internet with key words like Deloitte, failed, computer, disaster, etc. and get the picture. I was wrong.

    But don’t think we’re alone here in California in taking a while to catch on. Folks in Colorado, Texas and elsewhere could talk your ears off about Deloitte Consulting and some other players in IT vendors’ “con the government fools out of money” game. Colorado has already burned through about a quarter of a billion dollars on a doomed IT project, has an essentially worthless court settlement order in place since December 2007, has been embroiled in a mess since September 2004, and still doesn’t get it. And there is nothing about their welfare data that is even complicated to address.

    So what’s on the agenda here? Well, first we’ll have an audit. But audits are about $$ primarily. The auditor will figure out there’s something obviously wrong with all the missed progress dates, the cost overruns, the Sacramento experience, etc. but still won’t understand the basic IT problems. It’s highly unlikely anyone in that office has the software-writing skills required to understand what’s wrong. It’ll make nice evening TV news blurbs but won’t actually solve anything. It’ll just be entertainment.

    But what about the CIO probe? How many of you actually think the CIO knows anything about writing modern software? You do realize, don’t you, that the CIO position is just a political appointment. Right? If you can recognize, by appearance, the difference between a TV and a computer, and have the right political connections, you’re qualified.

    So we’ll be at this learning process for many months to come. That’s sad and may well result in one or more very painful disasters. Ancient COBOL systems are teetering on the brink. You can’t find parts anymore for a lot of things, COBOL programmers have largely died or retired, the capabilities of COBOL are a joke compared to what could be done on the computer sitting right in front of me, and the cost of attempts to reprogram COBOL systems to accommodate changes in laws is often hundreds of times what it would cost to replace the whole thing with something modern.

    The place where this CCMS project would best be brought to a halt is in some neutral county that has had nothing to do with CCMS. That includes about 50 counties. Find one that has an ancient COBOL system held together with Scotch tape and glue and the administrators are having anxiety attacks over that. Or just wait until it fails and makes the evening news. Replace it quickly with a modern system, wait for the shock to sink in, then replicate it in 57 more counties. Then we can all get back to just doing court business.

  57. Clark Kelso’s salary is being funneled through AOC so he can get health benefits on retirement after 10 years service compared to the requirement of 15 years if he stayed on CDC payroll. What does AOC get? A mouthpiece that will sing the praises of CCMS when ask to do so.

    • Said health benefits after retirement to be through CalPers, the state’s public retirement system, and to include lifetime retiree health care at taxpayers expense. Considering that Kelso is in reality working on behalf of the federal government, not the State or the AOC, this charade of funneling Kelso’s salary through the AOC would seem to violate CalPers regulations that such retirement benefits have to be earned through a Pers qualifying public employer and seems more than a little fraudulent. Wonder if the AOC has informed CalPers about this special arrangement for Mr. Kelso.

  58. Well here is me again and my opinion for one more time: what LA wants is fine and I appreciate their support in the effort to seek the truth. Just remember LA even though you are the largest court in the state, the consitution and US governance was founded on the basis of not to allow the majority to rule, but one man one vote, etc. etc. Let us not forget. I am sure with judges like Judge Horan, we will not have to worry about this concern. And again not to be devisive, just to ensure that a true democracy will be part of a change in governance of the branch

  59. To understand why the Chief Justice and the Judicial Council operate the way they do I suggest you go to http://www.carvergovernance.com and look up what is meant by The Policy Governance Model.

    • Real Party in Interest

      Gobbly goo to give people permission to take their hands off the wheel. There is no “one voice” in a crisis.

    • What about Barbra Streisand? 🙂

      The Carver model breaks down when you have decisions that aren’t matching the constituents’ needs. How can anyone advocate effectively for CCMS when it’s run out of money and the AOC is going to be audited? Will the JC even discuss the audit at its next meeting? And the Chief giving the audit a brief fly by in his remarks is not a discussion. In any well-run business or organization, the board of directors would ask the CEO, “Hey, what’s up with this audit?”

  60. JusticeCalifornia

    I am going to carefully post again. I brought up SBX211 after someone suggested talking about something else. I have nothing to do with the AOC or JC, other than being a close observer of, and writer about (in somewhat critical terms), what they and the CJ are doing.

    The public is also concerned about judicial accountability and campaign contributions–very hot topics. In November 2006, at the invitation of the Judicial Council, Bert Brandenburg, of Justice at Stake told the State’s top judges assembled at a judicial summit that the public’s largest unmet expectation was judicial accountability. He suggested the implementation of judicial performance evaluations to address that concern. Brandenburg further reported that surveys have shown that 75% of the public and over 25% of judges believe that campaign contributions affect the outcome of cases.

    Re campaign contributions, CCP 170.1 requires recusal if a person aware of the facts would reasonably doubt a judge’s ability to be impartial. If 75% of the public believes contributions affect the outcome of a case, logically, then, a judge cannot hear a case involving someone who had given them campaign contributions, right? Well, on December 15, 2009, a new report was issued by the “Commission on Impartial Courts” (appointed by Ron George) recommending that trial judges be able to receive up to $1,500 without recusing themselves from a case, and that the Supreme Court justices be able to receive over $25,000 from an individual without having to recuse themselves. Is that legal, given CCP 170.1? I don’t think there is a pending case about that so I do invite comment. But the report came out just in time to support Ron George and Ming Chin (who chaired the steering committee of the Commission on Impartial Courts) taking hefty campaign for their 2010 retention elections. And, as a studious sort, I obtained and reviewed the campaign disclosure statements for Ron and Ming from 1998, and most of their contributors paid $1,000 or less. Why do they need /want $25,000 a pop now? So, to the public, it looks like big contributions are being solicited by Ron and Ming, via this new CIC report saying they are OK, which report was written by a commission appointed by Ron and chaired by Ming. Again, it doesn’t look right. And, the CIC report recommended against judicial performance evaluations, or any mandatory oversight measures, for that matter. If you read the comments to the 12/15/09 Commission on Impartial Courts report, you will see that Senator Steinberg stated that the credibility of the entire report was undermined by the fact that it included no mandatory judicial oversight measures.

    Issues like these (judicial compensation, judicial oversight, and campaign finance) affect every judge in this state, and the JC just issued reports and recommendations on these issues in December 2009. While the topics brought up may be uncomfortable to discuss, and difficult to resolve, the fact is, they are being discussed, by the judicial policy makers, legal scholars, and by concerned members of the public –who take their concerns first to the judicial branch, and then to the press and the legislature.

    The increasingly widespread concern about what the judicial branch is doing is something the entire judicial branch should be thinking about, especially since the handwriting is on the wall–change is coming. Transparency, open discussion and fresh perspectives should be welcomed as the branch tries to figure out how best to proceed. Decisions made by top leadership are affecting the perception about the integrity of the entire branch. That is why I said in my prior post:

    “So getting at who is in charge, and making sure all judges’ views are represented, is really important for the integrity of the branch.”

    Is this the wrong forum to discuss these issues? I will silently observe, if so.

    Incidentally, the AOC audit was supported by non-judges and judicial reform groups, and judicial reform groups met with legislators last week to encourage legislation that would include whistleblower protection for court employees (I don’t know if the language was finessed by the February 19 deadline, but the effort was made to do so).

  61. Nathaniel Woodhull

    Richard (formerly ComputerGeek) is absolutely correct. Check out the Auditor General Jack Wagner’s report from December 1, 2009, regarding Deloitte’s exploits in Pennsylvania and the $592 million spent (and overpaid) on Deloitte “services”, but more importantly the additional costs that will cost Pennsylvania taxpayers over the coming years.
    Tragically, this sounds eerily like what’s going on here.
    Even if the various versions (V2-V3.9.8) of CCMS were to work (ha-ha) they will never be integrated by V-4.

  62. Thanks JusticeCalifornia for your indepth research and perspective. And, Mr. Power, I’m a huge fan of “ComputerGeek” and all the other catchy monikers. Your words “painful disaster” are so true.

    Everything from CCMS, to the Shapiro Fund, to no whistleblower protection for the good folks working at the AOC, to, well I can’t even remember it all…oh yeah, lobbying against the audit and one week later pushing as “urgent” campaign contribution “reform” that will authorize Supreme Court Justices in retention elections to accept over $25,000 without having to disqualify themselves, and that pesky unlicensed contractor problem. OMG, I almost forgot about those raises and hiring during a freeze and secretly changing the governance policy. It’s tempting to move to Bemiji, Minnesota and learning how to Curl, but I’ve heard they have really big mosquitoes there. So I guess I’ll stay put alongside the rest of you smart, dedicated bloggers who are passionate about accountability, transparency and change in our judicial system.

    We’re running an ultra marathon relay, handing off the baton to each other. Sometimes we’ll drop it, but we need to keep picking it up and running even if our feet swell up, get blisters and bleed.

  63. Forgot to add for those interested in the campaign contribution issue: It is item #4 on the agenda at this Friday’s Judicial Council meeting with a recommendation for “immediate action.”

    http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/jc/documents/
    reports/022610item4.pdf

    Of the 71 recommendations made at the December council meeting, items 29,30 and 33 which pertain to disclosure and mandatory disqualification as a result of campaign contributions received by judicial candidates were selected as the items deserving of the highest priority and are thus the first three to be presented to the council.

    “Three recommendations of current topical importance are being brought to the council immediately because the issues raised in those recommendations present a signficant impact on the preservation of an impartial judiciary…”

  64. You can’t make this up! A $ 25,000 contribution would be ok from an ethical point of view for a Supreme Court justice retention election? Doesn’t sound like fair public policy to me. I hope those that read this blog are starting to see a consistent pattern here .

    • It only sounds like bad public policy before you compare it to what already exists. Right now, there are no contribution limits to judicial campaigns at any level. There are also no mandatory disqualifications for contributions of any amount. The disqualification standards set forth in CCP 170.1 and Canon 3 are dependent on a particular judge’s view of whether a reasonable person aware of all the facts would fairly entertain a doubt about the judge’s impartiality.

      For some judges in other jurisdictions, a $3 million total contribution to a state Supreme Court candidate’s campaign by a litigant with business before the court was insufficient to trigger recusal without getting the US Supreme Court involved. http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/08-22.ZS.html

      $25,000 would definitely raise my eyebrows if my opponent gave it to a justice hearing my case, but as the law stands right now even if I knew about it there wouldn’t be anything I could do. CCP 170.1 doesn’t apply to appellate justices, and Canon 3 defines a financial interest mandating disqualification as a stake in a party, not as a campaign contribution.

      This proposal isn’t self-serving at all to someone seeking retention – it creates limits that aren’t already in place and mandatory, rather than discretionary, disqualification. All justices and judges would remain free to disqualify themselves at any lower amount they feel presents a problem.

      The $25K figure wasn’t chosen out of thin air, or on the basis of money already collected by one of the proponents – it’s slightly less than the allowable contribution by an individual to a candidate for governor.

      This blog has raised a lot of valid and valuable criticism of the governance of the judicial branch, but this proposed policy change doesn’t sound like such a bad thing.

  65. How convenient that this issue is getting put before the Judicial Council for a “vote” in the very same year, just months in fact, before the current Chief Justice himself, and Justice Chin, are up for their own retention elections this November. Is it just me, or does this seem just a little too self serving to even pass the proverbial smell test?

  66. Sunshine, Obi, Wendy and others:

    Do any of you suspect that some members of the Supreme Court or Judicial Council have done some very private polling and they were terrified by the results?

    Knowing they are swimming upstream on being retained would it not make sense to make an immediate change in the contribution limits?

    • peppermint pattie

      And who has been doing that “very private polling” on behalf of the Chief Justice and the members of the Supreme Court or the Judicial Council? If only the line staff employees in the AOC’s EOP (Executive Office Program) could speak freely and truthfully and without fear of losing their jobs, the tales they could tell about the things they are ordered to do. The Chief Justice and Vickrey can disguise almost anything under the ruse of one of the AOC’s “customer service surveys.” In any other branch of State government, such activities would be cause for investigation, but as the AOC only investigates itself, with predictable results, this too will go nowhere.

      Along with just admitting that the AOC only gives lip service to transparency and public accountability, perhaps the Chief Justice, the Judicial Council, and the AOC could also just finally admit there is no such thing as integrity or ethics being practiced there either.

    • Facts, although inconvenient, cannot be overlooked. According to the “Commission for Impartial Courts: Final Report” (http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/jc/tflists/commimpart.htm), at page 7, the recommendations about disqualification triggers were out for public comment for nearly 4 months, from March 23 to July 10, 2009. Also, the comment chart itself (linked at the same page) shows only THREE public comments regarding this issue (Supreme Court disqualification), none of which go to the $25,000 amount.

      My point is, this issue has been out there for a long time, and it seems a little disingenuous for people to be complaining about it now, especially when it appears that none of you (unless you’re one of the three public commentors) seemed to think it problematic at all during the 4 months when it was out for comment.

      To Tony Maino (apologies if that’s Judge Maino… I wasn’t sure), I read the report, and it doesn’t sound like there is any “change in contribution limits” being proposed. If I understand the report, it sounds like there are NO contribution limits for judges, and that imposing this $25,000 disqualification requirement on the Chief Justice would actually be MORE limiting on him in a retention election year. Am I missing something?

      • Judge Dredd missed nothing. I was wrong and thought that the present law did not allow any contribution larger than $300.00 from one source. This is not correct.

      • Obi-Wan Kenobi

        When you read the FPPC rules, it clearly states for any statewide election except for Governor, the contribution limit is $6500.00 per individual. Not $25,900.00

        Again, what am I missing here?

        Is this commission for impartial courts envoking a legal opinion without a court hearing? Where, specifically is the exemption that makes it go over $6,500.00 for “statewide, except Governor” for Justices?

  67. Nathaniel Woodhull

    But Tony, everything is just fine. CCMS is “wonderful”, 99.999% of the Branch is 100% behind the Chief and his policy, the Governor is 100% behind the Chief, the Legislature is 100% behind the Chief, and the voters were thinking of elevating him to a new position in which he would be in charge of the Judicial, Legislative and Executive Branches…. no wait, that was Cuba, never mind.

  68. Timing is everything. We know that Mr. Shapiro can write large checks, and so can others. But they will have to be reported, none of this throwing it in a drawer. And it raises a serious question, should the CJ chair the Council during a retention election, after he has voted for himself to be able to receive large amounts?

    http://www.fppc.ca.gov/bulletin/Contriblimit2008update.pdf

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      There are a few things that concern me here. Can these candidates be excluded from accepting donations from vendors and “good government funds” of vendors?

      Two as I read the FPPC rules I see no written exemption for the judicial branch with respect to elections and if that were true, then the limit “Statewide except Governor” seems to apply with a $6,500.00 limit for justices, not the $25,900.00 for Governor.

      What am I missing here?

  69. And did the Governor get to set individual contribution limits to his re-election campaign on his own authority and approved by twelve of his self-selected and self-appointed puppets? Or were the contribution limits established by some other mechanism over which the Governor didn’t have complete control to fix the vote?

  70. Real Party in Interest

    Clarity regarding contribution limits is always a good thing. But it’s different territory for judges or justices. Is the Chief Justice going to start disclosing all of his donations before each Council meeting, so judges on the council will be informed and can take information back to their courts? Will the AOC post donations to the Chief Justice on its web page?

  71. First to Name Withheld & Real Party – the CJ, and every other appellate justice in a retention election, already has to report all contributions recieved to the FPPC in electronic format for online disclosure as soon as the aggregate amount received for the election is over $50,000. This is the same requirement that every other statewide candidate must follow (Govt Code section 84605) and actually more transparent than the rules for superior court judges who do not have to file electronically. Any large campaign contribution checks have never been “thrown in a drawer” – at least not unless someone’s committing a misdemeanor. (Govt Code section 91000)

    Second point to Name Withheld – with regard to the recommendations before the JC, the Chief would not be voting “for himself to be able to receive large amounts”. He would be voting to impose new mandatory disqualification requirements upon himself should he accept any campaign contribution of over $25,000. Right now, he can accept unlimited amounts of campaign contributions from individual donors and there is no mandatory disqualification.

    The publication you have linked to is a description of the contribution limits applicable to statewide elective office candidates. Govt Code sections 82024 and 82050 – 82053 define statewide elections in a way that excludes judicial elections. The Political Reform Act does not impose ANY contribution limits on any judicial candidate.

    Finally, to Wendy Darling – no, of course the Political Reform Act went through the legislative process and the Governor’s only ability to control was through a veto. If you’re suggesting that reform legislation should be proposed to impose real contribution limits on judicial elections through the legislative branch, perhaps that’s a good idea. I just think that of all the criticism that could be leveled against the CJ for his handling of branch governance, it’s hardly a smoking gun to accuse him of nefarious motives in using a less complicated alternative to the legislative process to achieve some measure of transparency and accountability in judicial campaign finance.

  72. Richard aka Computer Geek: The failings of Deloitte particuarly in the LA schools was brought to the attention of the AOC by many. The ignored the warnings for whatever their reasons were. I am assuming because they were already in bed with Deloitte….

  73. Real Party in Interest

    Thank you for the clarification Fly. I realize that contributions need to be reported, even the ones from the Shapiro foundation (which apparently were not considered gifts to the AOC and were not reported to the FPPC).

    And do you know if the 25,000 figure was determined simply by matching the Governor campaign limits? A retention election for a Chief Jusitce is different from a statewide election for Governor, and the high limits may encourage partisan support (or opposition)?

  74. No offense FlyOnTheWall, but the way I read the proposal is that it’s up to Ron George or Ming Chin’s discretion to not disqualify themselves if someone has given them a penny under the current contribution limit for Governor. The contribution limits for Governor have nothing to do with the appearance of influence on Supreme Court justices. And it’s an easy connection for the public to make between $25,899.99 and a favorable decision from the bench. Plus Ming Chin presenting the proposal … please, how impartial is that?

  75. And courtflea, I’m thinking they’re going to ignore all the problems and warnings for years to come. I’ll make another attempt to talk some sense into someone about a year or two and a couple hundred million more down the line. In the meantime it’s back to work.

  76. Real Party – I agree that the unreported Shapiro gifts to the AOC are problematic in terms of disclosure under the Canons and a valid criticism of the lack of transparency of the AOC. Anytime judges are getting gifts and the sources aren’t reported it’s a problem. I was trying to keep that issue from getting conflated with the disclosure/disqualification proposal being criticized above.

    The committee report linked above specifically says that they chose the $25K limit based on the allowable contributions to candidates for governor. (see pg. 12 of the report). They also noted that there is a significant difference between a retention election and a partisan Governor’s race. (footnote 16) They chose to go with the $25K limit rather than something lower because they recognized the impracticality of requiring a Supreme Court justice to run a contested statewide retention campaign while limited to $1500 per person contributions. In considering the amount, they looked at data from other jurisidictions and noted vast differences in the amount of money spent on Supreme Court elections vs. lower level judicial retention elections. I think they would be in a stronger position if they had chosen to explain why they chose the limit applicable to gubernatorial candidates rather than the lower $6500 limit for other statewide offices.

    Name Withheld – no offense taken. I agree with your reading of the proposal – anything under $25K and a Supreme Court justice can still choose not to self-disqualify. I also agree that a contribution of $24K from a litigant without a voluntary disqualification by the recipient stinks to high heaven.

    I’m just saying that if Justice Chin and Chief Justice George were really interested in raking in all the campaign cash they could while preserving their ability to rule in favor of their contributors, the simplest way to accomplish that would be to do nothing, since the status quo allows the kind of ridiculous result that happened in the West Virginia case cited above. I could also believe that the proposal is strategic behavior on their part if there was something more restrictive being proposed that had a chance of passing and they were making this proposal as a preemptive strike. But I haven’t seen any great groundswell of public support for judicial campaign finance limits translated into legislative proposals that would come to fruition in time to affect their upcoming retention elections. They appear to be acting on this issue without any outside pressure generated by a less favorable proposal to them being considered by some other body, so it’s hard to see how this proposal benefits them if they are as Machiavellian as some posters have suggested.

    I agree that the AOC and the CJ have a lot to answer for in their governance of the branch. I agree that democratization of the Judicial Council could bring some of the accountability that is currently missing, and I think this blog offers a valuable outlet for helping that to happen. I post because I want to see the bloggers here continue to make the strongest and most persuasive arguments possible, and I don’t think that the one about disclosure/disqualification is one of them.

  77. Real Party in Interest

    Agree on many of your points, and strong is welcome. My only thought to add is that it is Justice Chin presenting to Justice George, and this becomes confusing to the public (and it only becomes worse if a headline gets mangled as “Supreme Court Justice Set His Donation Limit at $25,000.” And as for threshold issue, the public views judges in higher regard than politicians (as of 2005-2006). Have a good night my friend.

  78. JusticeCalifornia

    I am about to address the campaign contribution issue with some data I hope you read and consider, but thought I would first cut to the chase about something you all appear very interested in–someone named Ralph Shapiro.

    According to Ron George’s 1998 Form 490s, most of his contributions were $1,000 and under. Ron only had two $25,000 donations –one from an insurance defense firm specializing in workman’s comp, the other from a correctional peace officers’ PAC. And, in the final stretch of his retention election, he received a $75,000 loan from Ralph J. Shapiro.
    Interest free for one year.

    The loan can be found on page 43 of George’s 12/31/98 Form 490.

    • Real Party in Interest

      More troubling information. The path from a reported loan to unreported donations in subsequent years from Mr. Shapiro should (and will) trigger an investigation. Just my uninformed opinion, of course. And the opinion of every reasonable citizen who has the right to demand accountability in government.

    • Justice California:

      Do you know if this $75,000.00 was ever repaid? Omerta finds this loan to be strange as the Chief Justice comes from a very wealthy family and has been known to brag that he does not even bother to cash most of his pay checks on time.

      Is it possible there is some connection between this loan and the $ 76,500.00 the Shapiro Family has given the AOC since 20o2?

      Do you have any idea of how the $76,500.00 given to the AOC has been held and spent?

  79. JusticeCalifornia

    For the public, the threshold question truly is whether judges may legally take campaign contributions from those who appear before them pursuant to CCP 170.1(a)(6)(A)(iii), given the fact that 75% of the public and 25% of judges believe such contributions affect the outcome of cases.

    This CJ and JC has been getting intense pressure on this issue for years. The issue was raised immediately after the November 2006 summit, in the press, and in a case brought before the CA Supreme Court in early 2007, which it refused to hear.

    It was brought before the Commission on Impartial Courts in writing after its first report came out, and orally the day it took public testimony — the question was squarely asked–how can this commission recommend that judges take campaign contributions from those that appear before them, given CCP 170.1 and the multiple surveys showing that the public believes they affect the outcome of cases? Yet, the December 15, 2009 report does not address this threshold issue. Here is some of the exact information that was provided to the CIC last August:

    “California Code of Civil Procedure section 170.1 (a)(6)(A)(iii) [formerly 170.1 (a)(6)(C)] mandates that a judge “shall be disqualified” from hearing a matter if “a person aware of the facts might reasonably entertain a doubt that the judge would be able to be impartial.” This is an objective test.”

    “According to a report by the Civil Justice Association of California called “Campaign Contributions to the California Judiciary, 1997-2000” (see http://www.cjac.org/finalrept2000.pdf; pages 40-42), four Supreme Court Justices and forty appellate justices, stood for retention elections in 1998, a year after the above-mentioned ABA report. Of those 44 justices, only four received and reported campaign contributions and loans. Chief Justice Ron George raised $887,000. He had a total of 1,427 contributors, 40% of whom were attorneys (578). Associate Supreme Court Justice Ming Chin raised $710,139. He had 2,398 contributors, 57% of whom were attorneys (1,383.) Associate Supreme Court Justice Stanley Mosk had no contributors—he reported less than $2,700 in loans from his family and himself. Appellate Justice Arthur Gilbert raised $241,000. He had 547 contributors, 90% of whom were attorneys (490). ( NOTE: Justices George and Chin are up for re-election in 2010.)”

    “In November of 2006, Bert Brandenburg, Executive Director of the Justice at Stake Campaign, warned over 300 state court leaders assembled at a California Judicial Council Summit in San Francisco on November 1-3, 2006 that Justice at Stake opinion polls indicated that 3 out of 4 voters and 1 out of 4 judges believe that campaign contributions influence judicial decisions. He said voters are shocked that attorneys give money to judges before whom they appear.”

    “And a February 2009 USA Today/Gallup poll revealed more than 90% of adults surveyed said that judges should be removed from a case if it involves an individual or group that contributed to the judge’s election campaign.
    (http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2009-02-16-grisham-court_N.htm)”

    Instead of addressing the above threshold issue, the CIC steadfastly ignored it in the report, and recommended that trial judges and appellate justices be allowed to receive up to $1,500 before recusing themselves, and supreme court justices be allowed to receive what the governor may by receive from an individual (the amount is not stated in the report–you have to look it up to see that it is $25,900.)

    The CIC has clothed these recommendations in finery it hopes will placate the public and the legislature–an obligation to actively disclose contributions for two years. But do you really think that in the last 12 years, Ron has forgotten who gave him those two $25,000 donations, or that $75,000 loan?

    In my humble opinion, Ron George’s CIC, chaired by Ming Chin, is knowingly and intentionally recommending that judges violate state law. Both justices stand to benefit from the recommendation, immediately. And that is news.

  80. Well here we go again.I just read Mike McKee’s reporting on the Chief’s annual address to the legislature. Mr McKee is an excellent journalist so for the sake of this discussion I assume he quoted the Chief correctly. As I understand it the Chief once again tried to reduce those that disagree with him as ” strident and uninformed” “on the fringes of the judiciary” who have a “thinly disguised agenda to dismantle the statewide administration of justice”. None of that is true.Calls to democratize the Judicial Council do not equate with doing away with the statewide administration of Justice . Raising questions about spending over a billion dollars on a failed statewide computer systems while local courts close , reduce public access to the courts and sadly layoff valued employees doesn’t mean our public servants are shrill strident and misinformed. In the end I am confident the public and legislature will see through the Chief’s continuing and defensive remarks and start to ask why he sees fit to make them.In addition the following issues need to also be addressed,Why did the Chief state that any calls to democratize the Judicial Council would be tantamount to a declaration of war? Why did the chief lobby the legislature to block an audit of CCMS?Why did the Chief cut off Judge Lampe at the Judicial Council meeting on court closures ?Why has the AOC staff doubled in size since 2004? Why when local courts were forced to layoff their employees did the AOC give raises to certain of their staff?
    Why did the governance rules of the Judicial Council change recently without public debate or discussion?The answers to these questions demonstrate why we need positive and meaningful change in our branch. All that care about our courts need to please contact their legislative representatives to urge them to support democratization of the Judicial Council- it is the only viable long term solution to the Chief’s and current Judicial Council’s failed management of our branch of government.

  81. Obi-Wan Kenobi

    Dear Chief,

    1. There is nothing strident and uninformed about you and the AOC being willing to set a new Guinness world record on publicly funded, privately developed software.

    2. There is nothing strident and uninformed about your use of unlicensed contractors, whom the law says you had an obligation to check the licensure status first upon reciept of their bid and declare that bidder non-responsive due to a lack of a license. Instead, you chose these unlicensed (DOD) contractors over dozens of licensed contractors and re-signed contracts with them after you file suit against them – and extend those contracts to (as I understand it) December 2010 when they were due to expire in April and should already be out to bid.

    Especially after you filed suit against them for being unlicensed. It’s akin to passing out awards and bonuses for breaking the law and is in and of itself a perversion of justice perpetuated by the highest ranking judicial official in California. Then again, so is handing out 10% pay raises to RA’s in an effort to retain them in one of the worst employment markets since the great depression.

    3. There is nothing strident and uninformed about blatant inequities in your hiring and promotion practices that give male new hires substantially more money and a higher ranking title than female employees without so much as making job announcements for these higher paying positions so that everyone can fairly compete for them. This “no job announcements” hiring holds true with other supervisorial and managerial positions within the last three years.

    4. There is nothing strident and uninformed about new California courthouses costing three times as much as GSA courthouses built in California.

    5. There is nothing strident and uninformed about permitting votes in secrecy about judicial branch governance without so much as a public comment period.

    6. There is nothing strident and uninformed about the commission for impartial courts looking at FPPC limits of $6,500.00 in personal donations for “all statewide elections except governor” and re-classifying justices as the equivalent of Governors so that they can accept personal donations of up to $25,900.00

    Basically we all get it. When you tout transparency and accountability, it’s a guise for transparency for everyone but your administrative offices and accountability for everyone but your administrative offices. Commissioning recommendations to ensure impartial courts does not apply to your own court. And lastly, your office of the fraud waste and abuse coordinator actually coordinates fraud, waste and abuse.

    If it wasn’t clear before it is now.

    Democratize the judicial council.

  82. In today’s Sacramento Bee: California Chief Justice Criticizes Court Closures, by Samantha Young. http://www.sacbee.com

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      The public sentiment as indicated in the comments section of SacBee does not bode well for the Chief. This is not shrill and uninformed courtworkers making these comments, its voters that are making these comments and none of those comments provides one ounce of support.

  83. ok read it all here if the AOC has not done any editing 🙂

    http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/reference/soj022310.htm

  84. a highlight:

    The judiciary is not represented by the few strident and uninformed voices that occasionally emerge as e-mail strings on the fringe of the judiciary. Their efforts reflect nothing less than a thinly disguised agenda to dismantle the statewide administration of justice that all three branches of government have developed over the past several years. The vast majority of judges do not wish to engage in finger-pointing among individual courts and factions, and instead are prepared to remain fully accountable to you – the Legislature – and to the executive branch for the resources you allocate to the Judicial Council for the statewide administration of justice for the benefit of all Californians.

    One simple truth prevails. Courts are not a luxury to be funded in good times and ignored in bad times. Justice cannot be available only when it is convenient to pay for it. We shall attempt to address and absorb the reductions in our budget during these difficult times. But all of us – in each of the three branches of government – must remain committed to continuing the progress we have made toward meeting the goal of a fair and accessible system of justice.

    Sorry, but the CJ needs to get a clue. How insulting! The arrogance! Judges, AOC employees, Court employees and the tax payers of California should be disgusted.
    Asta la vista (ok my spanish spelling is questionable) King George!

  85. Real Party in Interest

    It is unfortunate that these words were included in his remarks:

    “The judiciary is not represented by the few strident and uninformed voices that occasionally emerge as e-mail strings on the fringe of the judiciary. Their efforts reflect nothing less than a thinly disguised agenda to dismantle the statewide administration of justice that all three branches of government have developed over the past several years.”

    Honestly, was this even necessary? It is unbecoming for a Chief Justice to ridicule members of the bench, and he is only making his situation worse (please, more humility, less grumpy old man). And it’s not even accurate … No one is advocating for a dismantling of a statewide administration of justice. This tactic is very, very tired.

  86. I’ve read lots of news accounts about the Chief Justice’s “shrill” comments directed to those that disagree with him including the Alliance of Judges. The Alliance was founded initially out of great concern for closing the courts and denying public access to those courts. Ironically, while castigating the Alliance as ” strident and uninformed” the Chief Justice now agrees that court closures should not continue. What is sad in all of this is that the Chief Justice demeans those that have honest and sincere disagreements with him about matters of judicial administration and public policy. Our branch represents justice, seeking the truth and allowing for diverse thoughts and opinions to be debated. The Chief Justice only undermines his own position when he attempts to marginalize those with differing views. Finally, it is simply wrong for the Chief Justice to suggest that anyone is seeking to “dismantle the statewide administration of justice”. No evidence, public statements or commentary anywhere supports this claim. I will always remain an optimist in all this and hope that the administration of the California judicial branch will at some point allow for diversity of thought and opinions , by passing a constitutional amendment to democratize the Judicial Council or to allow a variety of Judges including other Supreme Court Justices and the trial courts broken down by region to elect members to the Judicial Council. Thanks everyone for considering my views .

  87. Thank you Lando. Most great movements for change are based on free speech and peaceful exchange of ideas (has there been one that was not?). And what exactly are “e-mail strings on the fringe”? Is this like the farm hands gossiping behind the barn in 1920 or something? Blogs are all over the New York Times web page and are growing in national popularity daily. It’s the new press and the means to quickly gauge public opinion, and the length of time between a thought posted here and a news story tomorrow gets shorter every day. If smart people can connect the dots in this tiny universe (and believe me, I have worked on criminal investigations so I know good work), the truth is eventually going to land.

  88. SF Chron 3/7/10, “CA Justice [Ming Chin] weighs in on judicial races.” No talk of CA Supreme Court Justices, only Superior Court Judges. Based on what I’ve read here, not the three questions I would have expected to be asked.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/03/07/BACO1C817B.DTL