Bay Area KGO7 Airs Piece on Judicial “Rebellion”

Those of you who read this blog and live in the Bay Area probably got the chance this evening to view a terrific piece on the Alliance of California Judges and its battle to bring transparency and accountability to the Judicial Council and the AOC. The piece that aired on KGO 7 and presented by KGO reporter Vic Lee was spot on in every way. And although it could have been longer and more in-depth, I thought it did a great job highlighting who the major players are and what the main arguments are.

VIDEO UPDATE: I’m having problems embedding the video here so to view the video of the news piece click here or on the link below.

I’m including a link if you’d like to read the entire transcript of the piece. As soon as KGO uploads the piece in video format I’ll embed it here as well.

Rebellion in the California court system

They call themselves “the alliance.” Others call them rebels. They are a group of California judges who say the state’s judicial branch is no longer serving the people and they are demanding reform.

Last month, Judge David Lampe from Kern County made a public appeal to the California Judicial Council to stop closing courthouses one day a month. It is a decision the council says it made because of the state’s budget crisis.

Lampe says his plea fell on deaf ears.

“I believe that a lot of judges felt they did not have a sufficient voice in the decision that closed our courts,” he said.

That decision was made by the 27 judges who sit on the judicial council. They make statewide policy and administer the multi-billion dollar budget for California’s courts. Members of the judicial council are appointed by the chief justice of the state supreme court, who also presides over its meetings. The council’s staff is called the AOC, short for Administrative Office of the Courts.

The court closures and employee furloughs have triggered an open revolt against the council by some of California’s 1,700 judges.

“A very insular, elite group of folks has run this branch for now 15 years or so,” Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Charles Horan.

88 responses to “Bay Area KGO7 Airs Piece on Judicial “Rebellion”

  1. Judge Horan/Lampe you go guys you rock! Go get em tigers! What a great rebuttal to the CJs state of the branch speach. Plus you guys look pretty hot 🙂 So cool and speaking the facts. No name calling, being strident, etc. Unlike the CJ. Loveitloveitloveit.

  2. femme hommes

  3. Real Party in Interest

    Thank you Vic Lee and Channel 7 news. There is no reason why the process of governance for the California judicial branch should be a mystery for the public. It’s actually the opposite … the more that the public knows about the courts, the more that they will support solid decision-making that benefits all Californians.

  4. Nathaniel Woodhull

    Thanks to Judges Lampe, Horan and Kopp!
    I am proud of my colleagues and the work you are doing on behalf of the public! Seemed the answers by the some Judicial Council members appeared somewhat shrill and defensive!

  5. Two touchdowns today for governance:

    Judge Dennis Murray (Tehama) sucessfully pushed back on AOC staff recommendations regarding non-financial trial court audits, and I believe there was no vote — the AOC has to check in with stakeholders and revise the recommendations and bring them back in April.

    Judge William MacLaughlin (Los Angeles) asked Justice Chin and Justice George what they thought about the contribution limits for supreme court justices, and Justice George said he would take it under submission (joking). They both (George and Chin) informed the Council that they return donations if the donor appears before them (I am not a court reporter, so someone else can check a transcript if they are interested).

    It was a real governance agenda, and in the engagements that I heard, I honestly felt like everyone was trying harder to be more responsive, inclusive, respectful, and people on this site should know that.

    Fly: We can agree to disagree. I don’t get (at all) how the Supreme Court can set its own contribution limits, but you can educate me. Did the U.S. Supreme Court decide its members individual limits before or after litigation? 🙂

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      When your name is the only name on the ballot and you’re running uncontested and unopposed on your record alone, I submit that there should be a low campaign limit donation with strict rules about whom you can accept donations from. You shouldn’t be permitted to accept donations or support from vendors, their employees or political parties.

      The contribution limit, since one is running on a ballot unopposed, should be equivalent to the minimum wage of one person for one weeks worth of wages. Then I wouldn’t care if they kept the donation for someone who appeared before them as the donation amounts to a form of free speech achievable by the common man.

  6. Real Party in Interest

    I noticed a very sad picture of the Chief today on the cover of The Recorder’s web page. Was this article sent to everyone on the bench?

    This is where I ask people to be compassionate — and to let anything that needs to play out, to please let it play out with dignity. If people assume that their words here will be read by the Chief Justice of California, they will give him the proper respect he deserves.

    • The Chief Justice is only deserving of the respect and dignity he himself has accorded others, including the employees of the AOC that he has permitted to be humilated and punished for telling the truth about was has been going in the AOC. Given that history, the respect and dignity the Chief Justice is now deserving of is essentially non-existent.

  7. SF Court Observer

    It’s always interesting to learn how two people observing the same event or incident form the impressions they carry away. I also attended the meeting today and missed the “touchdowns for governance”. I believe I witnessed a vote regarding audits that results in further delay.

    I don’t know how I missed the “responsive, inclusive and respectful” development. I detected an atmosphere of smug-smirky and condescendingly paying lip-service to having to continue trading in words like impartial, transparancy and accountability. The agengda looks a lot like eye-wash as I sit home tonight and reflect upon the day.

    Hon. Ming Chin and Hon William MacLauglin presented the work product requiring years that they described as “landmark”. It is my belief that this exercise would be found woefully flawed, inadequate and almost silly by any High School Civics class in this State. What an extraordinary coincidence that they arrived at a $25k contribution being identified as being the trigger amount for Justices…

    I did not hear George indicate that he would return donations. I am likewise not a court reporter, but I am near certain that it was only Ming Ching that offered up this “solution”. Ming Ching also opined that the opposing party to the litigation could waive the issue of the donation. The “landmark” recommendations” struck me much more as a yard ornament than a landmark.

    With all respect to Real Party in Interest, respect is earned—to accord respect simply for title or position, or out of “compassion” as is requested is inappropriate —

    I sensed that much of todays proceedings were all about self-serving and undeserving of “respect”…

  8. I didn’t see the picture on the Recorder but I did see his speech and thought the CJ looked very sad and nervous. I wish the people around him would provide with with some good and meaningful advice so that all the parties can work together to find an agreeable way out the mess that the Judiciary is in.

  9. Ahhh croc0dile tears from the CJ. Poor guy! he is not sad for the public the branch and the constiuents he serves, he is just sad he has been caught/called on the carpet. It is up to him to make sure that things go decently and that his tenure ends with honor. Don’t forget he brought all of this upon himself. Not that I am lacking in compassion but hey, remember “do unto others” karma, etc. etc. I’ll save my pity for all of the AOC staffers that have suffered to bring to light all of the malfesence within the AOC.

  10. SF Court Observer

    The CJ would likely disagree with courtflea on the matter of “serving constituents”—-I suspect that his view would hold that we are fortunate to have such a steady hand at the helm (of a sinking ship)—-he does not strike me as “sad”…I observed arrogance and contempt for those that don’t appreciate his accumen and skills.

  11. By the way, Judge Murry of Tehama County has always been an awsome judge. Get down Judge Murry, we are proud of you!

  12. Real Party- Thanks for your post. The Chief absolutely deserves respect. He is a very thoughtful, intelligent Supreme Court Justice and I admire the many fine legal opinions he has written. My concerns and I say this respectfully , are that the Chief sadly has no respect for healthy dissent and open debate regarding the many tough issues our branch is dealing with. There is no reason for the Chief to continually attack his critics and claim they are seeking to tear down the statewide administration of justice when that is not the case. Instead of attempting to marginalize those that disagree with the way the branch is being run , the Chief should reach out himself and propose a workable , positive plan to democratize the Judicial Council. Such action would be a huge step in improving branch governance for the benefit of all the citizens we serve.

  13. Nathaniel Woodhull

    Good post and good insight.
    Any of us can respectfully agree to disagree about issues that confront the Judicial Branch or any other area of government. That doesn’t mean that we default to name-calling and efforts to marginalize those with whom we disagree.
    There are many things that the Chief has done over the past fourteen years that I very much agree with. Unfortunately, he has somewhere along the way lost touch with the very people whom is charged to represent. Something has caused him to view any question or disagreement as treasonous His belief that the Branch must speak with one voice has evolved to an expressed position that any dissent is an act of war and somehow a personal attack against him. Nothing could be further from the truth.
    I’d like to believe that the Chief’s advisors have isolated him and caused him to believe many things that are just not true.
    As an example, in recent discussions with IT people that truly understand what is going on with the CCMS development has led me to understand and believe that the system is a lost leader and we will never see V4 developed, nor the system implemented throughout the State. Perhaps those advising the Chief have their own interests (personal and financial) which are causing them to provide bad advice and counsel to the Chief. Maybe he truly believes that the CCMS system will work based upon what he is being told.
    Hopefully the audit commissioned by the Legislature last week will permit the Chief to see the truth about the system in the near future. I fear that such realization may be a crushing blow to the Chief.

  14. AllianceSupporter

    Why does the Chief Justice refuse to meet with the Alliance of California Judges, over-200 strong?
    After 10 years of undermining California Judges Association (CJA) by usurping CJA-run programs in Education, Ethics advice, insurance opportunities etc., having AOC staff attend all CJA Board meetings with resultant dictation of legislative and policy agendas, the Chief now touts CJA as an “historic partner” which represents the 2000 state judges.
    The vast majority of state judges recognize that CJA has become an organization totally coopted by the AOC, and they maintain their CJA membership solely for Insurance policies, Travel programs and social events. Former Assemblyman, Superior Court Judge, and State Senator Larry Stirling wrote in an op-ed piece earlier this year: ” The CJA’s staid, passive, and genteel
    persona has long served the social needs of the judiciary, but it has
    never been a force for judicial reform.”
    The Chief Justice would go a long way to deter the increasing diminution of his image and his legacy by agreeing to meet with the Alliance, to recognize them as an ever-enlarging group of judges with sincere and thoughtful concerns for the Judiciary – the name-calling and stone-walling does not befit the office of Chief Justice.

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      After declaring the ACJ as a radical fringe of the judiciary you should know he could never do that. He supports the CJA because of its staid, passive and genteel persona. If every member of the CJA became a member of the ACJ and the CJA continued its staid passive genteel persona while the ACJ called for change then he has preserved the status quo – his only objective.

    • The article by Cheryl Miller referred to elsewhere in this thread is the most important I have read in a long time. It is currently available on Cal Law, but I believe one must be a subscriber to read it. It bears a 3/1/10 publication date, so I assume and hope that at some point it will be widely circulated and hopefully appear on this blog.

      I read it last night and again a moment ago. It is simply the best piece I’ve seen yet on the current situation. (The charts alone–one a time-line of sorts, the other a bar graph showing the explosive growth of the AOC– make the article a gem).

      The article makes it clear that the insults we heard in the speech the other day were not simply an isolated outburst, immediately regretted, but–as most of us knew–are part of a well-scripted strategy to demean and belittle critics, and brand them as subversives.

      The article points out how this strategy has been utilized in the past, and the chief is quoted as saying that he has succeeded against dissension in the before before, and against those he calls “real players” in the branch, implying that it will be easy to defeat those who he describes in the article as being “on the fringe of the judicial branch”.

      Allies of the chief are also quoted as “laughing” at the current dissension. Apparently they think that court closures, hundreds of million dollars potentially thrown down the drain, contractual embarrassment with contractors, unsuccessful lobbying to try to kill a financial audit, and the firing of court employees is just a hoot.

      At the root of the strategy, of course, is the obvious contradiction–if the critics are so small, so powerless, and so “out there”, why in the world did the chief devote so much time to them in his once-a-year speech? We know the answer.

      It is an incredibly eye-opening article, and Cheryl Miller deserves a prize. I think, however, that when you all get a chance to read it, “pity” will not be the reaction. Rather, you will see how much work must be done. The chief makes it clear in the article that he still considers democratization of the council to be a
      treasonous concept.

      Truth is, they have yet to acknowledge a single problem, and continue, full speed ahead. And yes, Alliance Supporter, the chief will continue to reject any and all overtures by those who see the need for reform. Those in the legislature know this too, and I must believe it does not please them, but that is of course simply my surmise.

      I am absolutely confident that however long it takes, change is on the way. Ignoring or hiding the problems, and smearing critics, won’t change that.

      Oh, on another point–at yesterday’s council meeting you might have noticed that agenda item #1 sort of abruptly disappeared from the agenda. This one was on the consent agenda, and dealt with the proposed adoption of the AOC Confict of Interest Code. It was all set to be adopted without discussion, and without public circulation, until a sharp eyed alliance director (nope, not me) noticed that the government code requires that the public be given a full and fair opportunity to be heard at all stages of the adoption of such policies by judicial branch agencies, and has the right to have input into their content. (The AOC had not circulated the document for public comment, claiming is was simply an “internal AOC document”).

      Thus, the ACJ filed a written objection to the item on Tuesday, pointing out also that related government code sections make the entity (council) approving such rules in contravention to the law subject to suit.

      The AOC quietly pulled the item on Thursday, though refusing our request that they circulate our written objection to the council members. Apparently they are sensitive about letting the Council know what goes on. It was only after we stated our intention to send the objection to each council member on our own that the AOC relented and agreed to do so.

      Now, what is interesting is that it took those on the “uninformed fringe” to notice what the Council members and AOC staff should have immediately recognized for themselves. We at ACJ will, of course, continue to do our best to assist them.

  15. Obi-Wan Kenobi

    The Febuary 2004 LAO report was highly critical of the CCMS development effort and spelled out all of the risks that have come to fruition.

    When presented with the facts thus far, he has ignored them – and it goes far beyond CCMS of items he has ignored when hard facts were presented. As much as I respect your views Nathaniel Woodhull, the chief has thus far demonstrated through both his actions and words that he is both infallable and irreversable when it comes to decisions he has made. “Stay the course” has lasted nearly a decade. The Chief is cognizantly aware of what the truth is. The 2004 LAO report told him the truth. A truth he failed to act upon then and he refuses to act upon now.

    The chief did not come to the realization in 2004. What makes anyone willing to believe that the IT evaluation (which will condemn the project) and the subsequent audit (which will condemn the project) will cause the chief to change course?

    He was just handed two unlicensed contractors on a silver platter. By all rights, those two entities should not be working in California’s courthouses. Instead, his administrative offices worked with the lawbreakers, permitting them to get licensed before re-signing them under new contracts. These two contractors will be California’s only unlicensed contractors who will not pay a criminal penalty with respect to their unlicensed activity. Its one set of rules for every contractor in California and another set of rules for unlicensed contractors that work for the Judicial Branch.

    There will be no ‘crushing blow to the chief’ if he continues to ignore his critics because like everything else he chooses to ignore reality.

  16. Obi-Wan Kenobi

    P.S. Thanks Vic Lee – I look forward to your follow-up stories on the AOC.

  17. I second the comments of Judge Woodhull. I personally believe the Chief Justice has been surrounded by people who think they understand how to write modern software and how to set up a system architecture to handle the court data situation, but don’t. He turns to them when it comes to technology issues and gets bad advice. These advisors have isolated the CJ from the truth, causing him to believe many things about the technology situation that are simply not true.
    If the insulation surrounding the CJ were broken down, and he had the opportunity to see the truth, I think he would change his opinions and take action accordingly.
    And I agree with Obi-Wan Kenobi. We should all be thanking Vic Lee at the Bay Area TV station. I hope he probes deeply, finds all the problems, and explains it all to the public. And I hope the results are broadcast statewide. If everyone were fully informed about CCMS, the problem would quickly be eliminated. Whoever is in the Bay Area, please keep us all informed.

  18. Real Party in Interest

    As a governance issue, I will also note that the Chief (in introducing Justice Chin) said that Justice Chin had been in charge of CCMS. I don’t know the exact wording he used, but it’s the closest you will get to an admission of who is the highest authority in the branch with responsibility for the success or failure of that project. The AOC would say, “Oh no, it’s the Council,” but the Chief made it clear it was Justice Chin and the technology committee (or whatever they call themselves).

  19. Nathaniel Woodhull

    Cheryl Miller’s article is something that every member of the Legislature, heck every member of the public should read.
    I take back what I said in my earlier post. The arrogance, pomposity, self-importance, superciliousness (get the idea) displayed by the Chief Justice demonstrates that he must know what is going on with CCMS and doesn’t care.
    It also demonstrates that nothing goes on at the State level that isn’t approved by the Chief.
    Mr. George is completely tone-deaf. He is truly underestimating those who are questioning his leadership.

  20. Thank you for sharing this information Judge Horan. As you can imagine, it would not be shared with AOC employees. Perhaps EOP should give you a non-cash YOYA (You Outdid Yourself Award). Because conflict matters impact judicial branch employees, I thank you for ensuring proper steps are followed. Normally in a public hearing, this would be announced and explained to the public, but I don’t know if that was done.

    I thought for the PJ’s – why on earth should you agree to any audit schedule that commences before the Legislature has concluded its audit of the AOC regarding CCMS? The wheels of justice will not stop, they might actually run smoother.

    Start at the top and then set by example usually works as a model of governance.

    • For anyone interested, here was the initial email exchange re: the Conflict of Interest Code item, with names, email addresses, and phone numbers removed:

      From: Judge XXXXXXXX
      Sent: Monday, February 22, 2010 2:46 PM
      Subject: Alliance of California Judges Objection to Item 1 on Consent Agenda

      Please accept this email as the objection of the Alliance of California Judges as to agenda item 1 on the Judicial Council agenda for 2/26/10.

      Government code section 87311.5 mandates that “the review and preparation of Conflict of Interest codes (of judicial agencies) be carried out under procedures which guarantee to officers, employees, members, and consultants of the agency and to residents of the jurisdiction of adequate notice and a fair opportunity to present their views.”

      Please note further that Government Code 87308 provides for judicial review of any action of a code reviewing body (here, the Judicial Council) by any resident of the state of California.

      The report accompanying this agenda item makes it clear that the Conflict of Interest Code was never circulated prior to being placed on the Council consent agenda. The author takes the position that “because the AOC Conflict of Interest Code is an internal document that affects only AOC employees, this proposal was not circulated for comment.” (See page 3, Report to the Judicial Council which relative to this agenda item).

      Obviously, this procedure deprives residents of the state of their due process rights set forth in 87311.5.

      For the foregoing reasons we ask that the matter be taken off the agenda, and the Conflict of Interest Code be circulated for public comment. We further ask that this email be circulated to all Council members and be made part of the record of the upcoming meeting.

      Alliance of California Judges
      Judge XXXXXX, thank you for your email. The council’s Executive and Planning Committee has deferred this item to a future meeting, removing it from the February 26 agenda. That being the case, the committee directed staff not to include your email in the materials for the meeting. Your comments are welcome when the matter returns to the council agenda.

      Senior Attorney, Executive Office Programs Division
      Judicial Council of California – Administrative Office of the Courts
      455 Golden Gate Avenue
      San Francisco, California 94102-3688
      “Serving the courts for the benefit of all Californians”

  21. Aarrgggh!!! From the Cheryl Miller piece:

    In October, AOC executives endured a daylong legislative committee hearing that scrutinized the judiciary’s spending and transparency. A steady stream of judges and court employees blasted the Judicial Council and its vote to close courthouses.

    After AOC officials could not provide precise details about spending on the Court Case Management System, the committee asked for additional financial information. The committee’s chairman, Hector De La Torre, D-South Gate, said in a pointed editorial published last week in the Los Angeles Daily News that the AOC had not yet provided the documents.

    “The AOC claims that it has no funds available to keep the courts open,” De La Torre wrote. “But the Legislature does not have enough access to fiscal information to provide an independent analysis of this claim.”

  22. Raymond Spruance

    I was saddened to read Cheryl Miller’s article that will be published Monday in the Recorder. It showed a tremendous lack of humility on the part of Chief Justice Ronald George.

    When called, Americans have done their duty for their Country. Some have paid the ultimate price to defend the liberties granted by our system. These brave individuals did not make these sacrifices so that self-absorbed, self-proclaimed despots could try to take over any branch of our government, at any level.

    The arrogance shown by the Chief Justice was palpable. For many of us who have kept quiet during the recent months, this demonstration by the Chief was the final straw. Do the rules of professional conduct not apply to “Him”? The fact that he now appoints the members on the Commission on Judicial Performance and now hand selects the Special Masters who hear complaints and is the ultimate appellate review (Supreme Court) would appear to insulate the Chief from any such inquiries. Were any other judicial officer in California to make some of the public comments the Chief has in the past year, they undoubtedly would have been subjected to inquiry and discipline.

    Many members of the Legislature are waking up. This “speaking with one voice” phenomena is started to be questioned. The fact that the AOC is not responding to the Legislature’s requests for information on CCMS is becoming annoying to several folks there.

    The Chief should remember the course of one of his predecessors who failed to remember whom she worked for. The sycophants swarming around the Chief will run for the hills when they see the changing tide. It’s changing, and it is coming like a tsunami…

  23. I think the ACJ is doing a great job of getting the message out. When watching the Bay Area news clip, I was struck by the contrast between the ACJ representatives and the JC/AOC reps. The judges who spoke on behalf of the ACJ were confident and relaxed. The AOC reps appeared defensive.

    I agree; it is important to stay away from personal attacks on the CJ or others. While at the same time, I think it would be naive to think the CJ’s advisors have led him astray on issues of court administration. As has been pointed out, the CJ is a very smart person. He also has a vision for the judicial branch provides for a very centralized form of governance and administration. CCMS, Phoenix, proposed amendments to GC 77001 are all part of this vision.

    I believe there is, and has always been, a coordinated effort to regionalize the court system, much like the system Mr. Vickery oversaw in Utah. By pushing these statewide systems, the AOC planned to be in a position to transition to a centralized form of fiscal, HR and operational managment. Without these systems in place, the AOC cannot make a legitimate argument to the legislature that it should reconsider its position regarding local control of trial courts.

    While it is important to focus on the larger strategic goals of improving accountability and transparency by making JC more democratic, I think the ACJ and others should also develop a tactical plan to address the issue of adequate funding of trial courts in the near term.

    At this point, the AOC is not going to be able to push through any backdoor legislation changing the control structure. However, if a trial court finds itself in a position where it lacks funding to meet its obligations the AOC can step in and take control, e.g. Placer. If the AOc is allowed to protect SB 1407 monies and other sources of fudning for trial court operations, a number of courts will be forced into a position of vulnerability to AOC assuming control of local budgets. The ACJ (and hopefully the CJA) must do everything it can to bring the issue of judicial branch budget priorities to the forefront of the current debate. The issue of funding priorites goes well beyond access to justicie issues. It has the potential of

    For whatever its worth, I urge the ACJ and other proponents of change in the governance of the judicial branch to continue to focus on the broad policy issues of transparency, accountability and oversight consistent with existing constitutional and statutory mandates.

  24. Real Party in Interest

    LA Daily News piece, 2/23:

    Hector De La Torre: L.A. court funding shortfall threatens to exacerbate economic crisis
    By Hector De La Torre Assemblymember Hector De La Torre is chairman of the Accountability and Administrative Review Committee.
    Updated: 02/23/2010 03:51:50 PM PST

    L.A. Court funding shortfall threatens to exacerbate economic crisis

    LOS Angeles County courts are facing a crisis that not only threatens justice in our communities, but also threatens to upend the economic recovery of families in our region.

    Without immediate action, the crisis within the Los Angeles County court’s budget will force the layoff of more than 800 Los Angeles County court employees by the end of this year – with a total loss of 1,827 jobs over the next two years. In addition, more than 180 courtrooms and 9 courthouses in Los Angeles will be closed. Overall, more than 30 percent in workforce reduction. Not included in these losses are Los Angeles area legal services and regional effected business economic losses. As operating capacity declines, utilization of local legal services will be significantly reduced.

    Every day I hear from constituents who need to get back to work to support their families. I believe government needs to work overtime to facilitate these jobs. That is why I am especially concerned that backlogs of court cases and closed courthouses will harm private sector job growth.

    At the same time, closing courtrooms and laying off skilled court workers will add to unemployment and hurt our local economy.

    Without access to courts and certainty that cases will be resolved in a timely manner, business owners don’t have the assurance they need to invest in new infrastructure and technology. Delayed litigation ties up resources. New acquisitions can’t be made. The bottom line is job creation is halted.

    Los Angeles’ diverse communities have already been hit hard by court closures. Driven by massive cuts made by the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), the statewide body which oversees trial court budgets, the Los Angeles Superior Courts has already been forced to close its doors to the public one day each month.

    Backlogs result in children being forced to stay in foster care longer than necessary, restraining orders for domestic violence victims take longer to process (keeping them in violent environments), and arrest and search warrants have been delayed, jeopardizing public safety.

    Government accountability means making sure that the public’s interest is prioritized above everything else: essential court functions must be preserved.

    With layoffs imminent, our justice system and our economy depend on our making the right decisions now. The AOC can either help to fix the courts or it can ignore its obligation to the people of Los Angeles County.

    The AOC claims that it has no funds available to keep the courts open. But the legislature does not have enough access to fiscal information to provide an independent analysis of this claim. However they do it, the AOC officials must reshuffle their priorities to keep the courthouse doors open with needed staff to serve the public

  25. Why is this blog the forum where news stories that pertain to the judicial branch are gathered and shared? I know that technology may be scary, but withholding information is more frightening and sets a horrible precedent. This blog has more credibility regarding free and fast access to news than anything the AOC has produced for members of the branch. This is 2010, not 1990.

  26. Real Party in Interest

    “Ultimately, this is going to be decided by the state Supreme Court and we expect that they will uphold the governor’s authority to do furloughs,” said Aaron McLear, a Schwarzenegger spokesman.

    Did the Governor’s office not get the message that the third branch and our system of justice is to have fair and impartial courts? Have a good weekend all 🙂

  27. JusticeCalifornia

    Oops, sorry, probably no comment is allowed by judges because there are pending cases. But it might be of interest to you anyway.

    Here is another website about this:

  28. Hitting the Wall
    The Recorder

    By Cheryl Miller

    March 1, 2010

    SACRAMENTO — During his annual address to the state Legislature last week, Chief Justice Ronald George insisted that the judiciary, while fiscally challenged, remains “robust and resilient.”

    But as George approaches his 14th anniversary as California’s top judge, his vision for the nation’s largest judicial branch seems far more vulnerable. A slew of challenges emerging from both inside and outside the courts threaten to stall, if not completely derail, plans he has so carefully crafted.

    EDITOR’S EDIT: Sorry folks. But I had to delete the rest of the article. Unfortunately this article is posted behind the Recorder’s paid wall. You have to either pick up a copy of the paper or pay an online subscription to read the rest of it. I apologize if this editorial decision on my part causes any inconvenience.

  29. JusticeCalifornia

    This Recorder article is right. Ron George is very politically savvy. He is not a victim of bad advisors; rather, he appoints and surrounds himself with those who will do what he wants them to do. He calls the shots, and he has a brilliant propaganda machine in place, funded by the taxpayers. Heck, the JC held fake focus groups in order to get “data” to offset a June 2005 Praxis report about the public’s negative view of the courts. Machiavellian? You bet. Why did they do it? So they could tell everyone what a great job George is doing. (And yes, this information was provided to the CA legislative judiciary committee last year.) I say “they” because according to channel 7’s report, the Judicial Council knows exactly what everyone is up to, because everything has been “vetted”. So each and every Judicial Council member is responsible for every detail of every report that has ever been issued and submitted for approval, and approved during their tenure. Woo-hoo!

    And, by the way, there were no crocodile tears at the 2/26/10 JC meeting, at least during the “Commission on Impartial Courts” presentation. Ming Chin told George that his State of the Judiciary address was excellent. Everyone joked a lot, and laughed a lot. After the JC approved the $25,900 donation limits, MacLaughlin hugged those he had worked with to get it approved. And while both George and Chin said they wouldn’t hear cases involving campaign donors (I believe George said he wouldn’t hear the case, and Chin said he wouldn’t recuse himself, he would give the money back), that is not what will ultimately be memorialized. Those of us who have been watching this develop since 2006 will get the transcript for the exact wording. Those of us who were at the November 2006 Judicial Summit know that the CIC outcomes were outlined at that Summit. So were the tactics for dealing with court critics: “Build as big a wall as possible, and play defense”; and use PR people and top members of the legal profession as mouthpieces to “talk tough” about critics.

    Notwithstanding the jokes and staged, unified, camaraderie at yesterday’s Judicial Council meeting, Ron George is feeling the pain, because he is pulling out the big gun (namely, himself) and doing the tough talking himself. Blood and desperation? Absolutely.

    However, as someone who has “been there done that” for years, and seen judicial retaliation and machinations up close and personal at all levels of the judiciary, make no mistake–do not underestimate Ron George’s ability to play dirty, especially now that he and Ming Chin have the green light to get the big campaign funding they want this year. Watch your backs. You are in a streetfight (or a high stakes chess game, if that visual better appeals to you), although you may not know it yet.

    The good news is, the public, and members of every branch of government are aware of what George is selling. His heavy-handed arrogance and oppression have created a lot of enemies, and he is fighting a divisive, expensive war on many fronts. There is a very real opportunity for positive change, right now. One of the reasons is increased fiscal scrutiny—another is that for years the legislative, executive, and judicial branches (and that means the JC and CJP) have ALL been hearing about illegalities, and the lack of oversight and transparency, in the CA judicial branch. If they continue to support George, knowing what he has done, they will eventually –when the dirt comes out–have a lot of explaining to do.

    And for all of those out there considering helping out big Ron in his time of trouble, check out Government Code section 6200, and Penal Code sections 96.5 and 182.

  30. Bravo JusticeCalifornia! You are spot on.

  31. JusticeCalifornia,

    I’ve been wondering about that November, 2006 Judicial Summit. I’m glad to know you were there. On November 3, of the three day event, there was an evening event celebrating the Chief’s tenure as Chief and celebrating the Judicial Council’s many years of service. At a minimum, the speaker for the evening’s event, was paid for by the Shapiro Fund. Tax payers probably paid the rest of the bill. I for one would love to know how much that three day summit cost the tax payers, I’ll bet it cost a pretty penny. It offends me to no end that even a dime of my hard earned paycheck would go to pay for a party celebrating the Chief and the Council. JusticeCalifornia, if you were at the November 3, 2006 party for the Chief, can you tell me whether there were floral centerpieces, lobster and filet (for example), live music and fine wine flowing? If Shapiro paid for the wine, at least that means I (“I” meaning the taxpayer “I) didn’t.

    We need to keep a spot light shining on the Chief and any one with information to share should share.

  32. JusticeCalifornia:

    Without commenting on any other assetion in your lengthy post, I have to take issue with your statement that the “JC held fake focus groups.”

    Multiple focus groups were held in 2006 with mixed participants, Latinos, Asian Americans and African Americans. The findings supported the research from the 2005 public trust and confidence report:

    — California’s diverse population creates many challenges for the courts in terms of meeting
    the needs of court users.

    — In our focus groups, Asian Americans express positive views of the courts, bearing out
    the findings of the phase I survey. However, Latinos express a lower level of confidence
    in the courts than they did during the phase I survey. African Americans express the
    lowest levels of confidence of any group.

    — Many minorities and recent immigrants try to avoid the legal system altogether.

    — Language and translation issues are becoming increasingly prevalent in the courts.

    — Court users and judicial members agree that the courts need more interpreters.

    — Court users, community leaders, and judicial branch members alike believe that more
    diversity on the bench would strengthen confidence in the courts among minorities.

    — Court users also state that they would like to see juries that reflect the diversity of the state.

    These findings arose from real focus group reasearch.

    I will agree with you that confidence in the branch by the public and by members of the bench may have eroded in the past five years. That is simply a guess, but additional research may find it to be sadly true. Thanks.

  33. JusticeCalifornia

    Hi Name Withheld

    Here is an excerpt of a lengthy bulletin I wrote about this, and why:

    “The actual focus group report was released in December 2006 and is called “Trust and Confidence in the California Courts” Phase II, Focus Groups and Interviews. On page 32 of the report, readers are informed that focus group data indicated that “Most court users find the courts to be neutral and impartial, with many people asserting that a California judge would never take a bribe”

    A videotape of some of the focus groups was briefly placed on the California Courts website in late 2006, and it included the footage of focus group participants answering questions about judicial bribes and fairness.

    The videotape revealed that a balding male facilitator led the focus groups, and deftly guided the answer to the important questions about fairness and impartiality of judges–by asking leading questions and then raising his own hand in answer to his questions:

    Questions he asked included:

    “Who agrees that judges would not take a bribe?” and then the facilitator shot his hand up, followed by videotaped focus group participants raising their hands.

    “Are judges on balance fair or unfair-who would say fair?” and then the facilitator again shot his hand up, followed by videotaped focus group participants raising their hands.

    The Judicial Council knows how to properly conduct focus groups, and knows that the facilitator, by raising his own hand in response to a leading question posed by him, was acting in a manner designed to elicit biased, rather than accurate data. The Judicial Council knows this because in anticipation of a May 1998 Court Planning conference, it commissioned and received a detailed guide on how to properly conduct focus groups. The guide is called “Using Focus Groups in Community-Focused Court Planning”, and for years it was available on the California Courts website. (JusticeCalifornia is no longer able to locate it on the court website, but has copies.) The focus group guide includes the following tips:

    “It should be noted that focus groups must be planned and operated skillfully in order to avoid biasing the information gathered.”

    “Open ended questions [“what has been your experience in our traffic court system?”] are the most distinctive feature of an effective focus group session as they greatly increase the chances of collecting unbiased data. This is so because the open-ended question does not imply or suggest a prescribed correct answer. Instead, participants are encouraged to respond based on their specific situation.”

    “A facilitator guides focus group meetings. Therefore, choosing the facilitator is one of the most influential factors affecting the quality of focus group results.”

    “An effective facilitator guides the discussion and listens to what is said. The facilitator should not engage in discussion, share personal views, or otherwise shape the outcome of the group interview

    “[I]f unbiased data is to be gathered, the facilitator must suspend his/her personal views and seek out the perceptions of the focus group participants.”

  34. I respect your criticism. The video piece only used brief glimpses from a few focus groups and it might have been stronger if it featured more footage that showed the diverse views and varying opinions from the groups. But having attended many of the groups, I can tell you that there was a wide range of opinion expressed during 3 hour sessions (from very favorable to middling to very unfavorable views of the courts). At the time, I recall being impressed with how much overall trust and confidence that people had in judges, even if they did not like the courts or going to court.

  35. Nathaniel Woodhull

    To Richard Power,

    The JC and AOC are openly inviting people who question the effectiveness of CCMS to go to Orange County and see what it can do. Perhaps someone with your IT background could examine the Orange County system (not the “demonstration model” used at conferences) and see how much of the Orange County system is CCMS and how much of it is their own $50 mil worth of IT development!

  36. Justice California: It should be noted that the bill for the phase 1 & 2 “Trust and Confidence in the California Courts” study/survey/focus groups (fake or not) you mention cost the California taxpayers somewhere in the vicinity of $500,000. AOC-Executive Office Programs did the work at Bill Vickrey’s beckoning. How’s that for justice delivered!

  37. Eunice:

    The spending for PTC that occurred in 2005-2006 would not be replicated in today’s climate. And in any event, California is a huge state so do an adequate survey with proper analysis is not something as cheap as people might think it is to do. The project resulted in two publications that have informed national (and actually international) policy-making for the courts. While I would not recommend spending that amount of money for a future survey, I and others in EOP can stand by the work that was done. I know that academics use the PTC findings to this day, and the recommendations and educational value for bench officers and court staff has led to improved service delivery in the courts. And they were projects that were completed! That in and of itself is always a key milestone when looking at large scale AOC projects. My two cents 🙂

  38. Thank you, Name Withheld. As a fellow AOC employee, I don’t question the commitment or dedication of EOP staff who completed the PTC work. And you are probably right that the results have been useful in some quarters. What bothered me from the beginning of the study was the executive level motivation for the project, which smacked of a Public Relations Campaign, another tool for lobbying the legislature, and touting the Chief Justice’s “achievements”. My suspicions in this regard were heightened when the AOC hired Fred Friendly Seminars to showcase the survey results in a flashy production at the 2006 Judicial Summit in San Diego. My two cents.

    • Thanks. There are others who would argue that the PTC survey/qualitative study was done to feed into the strategic planning cycle for the branch, and it showed accountability to have a valid mechanism that solicited public input (before adopting any kind of six year plan). Having worked on the project, I can verify that public input did indeed inform branch priorities, and the Council genuinely endeavored to be responsive to public needs in the planning process.

  39. Judge Woodhull, interesting to see your post before I head out for bowling. I wasn’t aware of that invitation. Give me a call 530 306-6370 and let me know who I need to talk to. I would be happy to go to Orange County and look at their system, provided of course they will actually let people like me look at the whole system and all the technical innards and not just give us all some staged presentation. I would love to look at all the technical details up close. Tried to do that before and got blocked.
    Out of curiosity, where did you see the invitation?

  40. JusticeCalifornia

    Name Withheld, apart from my issues regarding the focus groups, I respect and agree that real and useful research was done in connection with the Trust and Confidence reports. Issues arise regarding how the results were packaged for PR purposes (another subject), and what hasn’t been done with the information. For example, the T and C reports talk about the fact that the public wants judicial accountability. That issue was again raised at the November 2006 Judicial Summit. (Sunshine, unfortunately I did not go to the dinner.)

    In retrospect the Summit provided a step-by-step blueprint of outcomes with respect to the judicial branch. Many of the discussed outcomes have been methodically implemented– or, via the new CIC report and last Thursday’s JC vote– are scheduled to be implemented.

    However, one key Summit issue/recommended outcome is not scheduled for implementation, and it has to do with accountability. Justice Sandra Day O’ Connor warned that public discontent is growing, and that judicial independence has to be coupled with accountability. Bert Brandenberg recommended that Judicial Performance Evaluations be implemented to satisfy what he identified as the public’s largest unmet expectation–judicial accountability. Brandenberg’s suggestion is clearly consistent with the JC’s own T and C research –and yet mandatory JPEs of any kind were dismissed by the CIC in its 12/15/09 report.

    Senator Darrell Steinberg, who spoke at the 2006 Summit, submitted a lengthy and well-written comment about the CIC report, criticizing the lack of JPEs and other accountability measures. See comment 13, on pages 13-16 of attachment C to the report. In a particularly pointed remark he said:

    “[O]f the report’s 95 pages and 109 recommendations, less than 2 full pages and 3 recommendations are devoted to discussing potential ways to enhance judicial accountability. This relative dearth of discussion and recommendations relating to judicial accountability is a serious concern and can undermine the credibility of the entire report.”

    Appellate Justice Maria P. Rivera’s comment on accountability (comment 215, pages 110 -112 of attachment C) is also worth reading in its entirety.

    In contrast, there was extreme emphasis at the Summit on the effective use of PR tactics—and perhaps if someone actually gets their hands on how money is really spent by the JC and AOC, they will find inordinate amounts spent on public relations research, consultants, efforts and events. A jaded person could say that the CIC report was primarily an expensive, publicly funded way to carry out top leadership’s key goals—namely, to get the seal of approval for big campaign funding for Ron and Ming this year; to make sure all CA judges are “encouraged” via changes in the Code of Judicial Ethics to participate in PR for the branch; and to put in place a mechanism to deal with court critics from all quarters who are a little upset about the continuing lack of accountability. How all that serves the public’s interest in fair and equal access to justice. . . .well. . .

    I think it is safe to say a lot of people share the Alliance’s goal of achieving accountability within the judicial branch. Amen to that.

    • JusticeCalifornia: You somehow seem to think that the CIC recommendations regarding mandatory disqualification somehow equal an open door on large contributions to Supreme Court justices. Could you please explain? Now, there are no limits whatsoever on contributions to any judges or justices. Further, there is no mandatory disqualification required, regardless of the contribution amount. So how exactly are these new recommendations a bad thing? I’m not trying to be confrontational; I simply don’t understand your position in the least.

      • Real Party in Interest

        Judge Dredd:

        During a retention election year (with, oh, let’s say hypothetically, there are some key issues to voters, like government waste, gay marriage, California’s budget crisis, or ethics), disqualification limits are contribution limits. Otherwise, everything given to a judge or justice would be returned automatically, or a lower limit (like anything above $6,500) would have been chosen. The $25,000 limit was chosen as the right to free speech for a justice.

      • JusticeCalifornia

        Okay Judge Dredd I better make this quick, as the Governor or President is apparently going to issue an order taking over or shutting this blog down in 30 days or some such thing!

        I agree that in a vacuum it would seem that the Supreme Court has voluntarily and randomly decided to impose official campaign contribution rules upon itself. But we don’t have a vacuum here, we have a) California statutory disqualification law, coupled with b) hard data provided to our judiciary in 2006 about what the public thinks about campaign contributions; which c) leads to a reasonable conclusion that it is presently illegal in California for a judge to take campaign contributions from someone appearing before him or her.
        I refer you for the long details to what I posted under “Legislative Committee Approves Audit of CCMS”. In a nutshell, here is what was said:
        “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.”
        “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.”
        “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 that 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. (”
        “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.)”
        So, Judge Dredd, it would appear the CIC (which includes Justice Chin, up for retention election this year) and JC (which includes Justice George, also up for retention election this year) are recommending the OFFICIAL adoption of campaign rules that they KNOW violate state law. Do you disagree? (And that question is open to anyone).

      • I disagree that the contribution-generated disqualification of appellate and Supreme Court justices is mandated by CCP 170.1 because CCP 170.5 specifically limits the definition of “judge” for purposes of 170.1 disqualification to superior court judges, court commissioners, and referees. No law currently requires disqualification of an appellate justice or Supreme Court justice for acceptance of a retention election campaign contribution of any amount. And no party can bring a motion under CCP 170.1 to force disqualification of an appellate or Supreme Court justice from his or her case.

        Canon 3 requires recusal of a justice who has a $1500 financial stake in a party, which is not defined as having accepted a campaign contribution.

        And to address Judge Horan’s hypo, yes, the proposed rule only mandates a two year disqualification period no matter what amount the contributor gave. After two years, disqualification would be voluntary.

        Appellate and Supreme Court justices are already required to file their campaign disclosures electronically with the Secretary of State per Government Code 84605. Recs. 31 and 32 are about making sure litigants have an easily accessible means of getting the information – which is admittedly difficult currently. I couldn’t find any publicly accessible info on the SOS website for judicial retention election filings.

    • Chuck Horan

      Justice Cal, I tried to reply to a post a bit further down, but there was no “reply” thing to click, so this is a bit out of order (no pun). You are very up-to-speed on lots of very interesting stuff, and I commend you! I’m just curious–on the contribution stuff, how long will the disqualificiation last if the S.C. adopts the recommendation passed at last week’s council meeting? Hypo: Justice takes $100,000 from contributor. Disqualifies self from cases for a while. Two years later, contributor’s case makes way to Supreme Court. Can Justice hear the case should he wish to? (Obviously he/she could recuse, but would it be mandatory under the recommendations passed). I thought I remember something about a two year disqualification period, but not sure. Thanks in advance for your answer.

      • JusticeCalifornia

        I have to get to my 2/26/10 Judicial Council Binder to see the latest version of the recs. I will review and get back to you.

      • JusticeCalifornia

        Hello Judge Horan,
        I looked at the 2/26/10 materials.
        Under Recommendation 33 (applicable to appellate justices), “the obligation to disqualify shall begin immediately on receipt of the contribution in question and shall run for two years from the date that the candidate assumes office or from the date the contribution was received, whichever is later” (Page 10, 2/26/10 “Report to the Judicial Council”).
        So I think that the answer is yes, after the relevant two-year period had passed, the justice would be free to hear the case involving the contributor who gave $100,000. That is patently ridiculous. . .it is very easy to delay litigation, and no one forgets big donations.
        Now here is something else that is interesting.
        Recommendation 31 (applicable to appellate courts) states that “Appellate courts should be required to send to the parties—with both the first notice from the court and with the notice of oral argument—information on how they may learn of campaign contributions if there is an upcoming retention election or there was a recent election.” (Page 35, Commission for Impartial courts: Final Report, December 2009)
        Recommendation 32 (also applicable to appellate courts) states that “Appellate justices’ campaign finance disclosures should be maintained electronically and should be accessible via the Web and possibly through a link to the California Secretary of State Web site”. (Page 35, Commission for Impartial courts: Final Report, December 2009)
        According to the 2/26/10 report, neither 31 nor 32 were recommended to be implemented at this time “because the committee feels that further consideration of the mechanics of the recommended disclosure—taking into account the particulars of the appellate process—should occur before those recommendations are presented to the council for action”. (Page 10, footnote 11, 2/26/10 “Report to the Judicial Council”.)
        So theoretically, no disclosure requirements are being imposed on appellate justices by the JC or CIC “Implementation Committee”. Incidentally, Ron George (up for retention election this year), appointed Ming Chin (also up for retention election this year) as chair of that Implementation Committee.
        It’s good to be king.

  41. Thanks JC. I respect Mr. Brandenburg and the work at Justice at Stake

    I think people have been following the evolution of CIC more closely than I have, but I was thinking today that I don’t know what kind of judicial history the branch can produce leading up to the Supreme Court (oops, I mean the Judicial Council’s) decision last Friday regarding 25,000 vs. any lower amount. If there were minutes to the task force meetings, they should be accessible on the public page.

  42. Oh, there are some minutes. This is from September 12, 2008:

    The Task Force tentatively recommends that monetary limits not be placed on contributions to judicial election campaigns, but rather—as discussed below—that a system of mandatory disclosure and disqualification be adopted to enhance the public’s trust and confidence that judicial decision-making will not be affected by monetary contributions.

  43. I am back from bowling and awaiting the contact information regarding Orange County Superior Court. If given the opportunity to look at their system up close, I will write a detailed analysis of it in my newspaper column and/or here.

  44. Did someone say that the AOC spent $500,00 on these focus groups? If so, that is outrageous! It does NOT cost that much money to do focus groups in California! I know for a fact that quality focus groups do not cost this much. And just why was it necessary to focus group the public on their views of the courts, judges, etc? Honestly, what other government agencies conducts focus groups? If anything maybe a survey handed out to court users to fill out would have been more appropriate or something on line. One final point, this nonsense about focus groups is yet another symptom of the problems raised in the KGO piece and by many others. We have serious leadership and accountability issues in the judiciary. Let’s not get distracted by these symptoms and refocus on solutions and reform.

  45. Real Party in Interest

    WiseEmployee, you might want to rethink your name. You are quoting from an anonymous blog, and not even accurately.

    But I do agree … reform is in the present.

    • WiseEmployee

      Real Party – fyi, I didn’t quote anyone. I asked a question about whether I read somewhere in this long thread of comments whether someone said the AOC spent half a million dollars on a focus group. Because if they did, they got ripped off. There’s a difference between a question and a quote. Perhaps you should learn the difference between a quote, a paraphrase and a question before you hurl insults.

  46. I have a question for the scholars? If judges cannot comment on pending litigation here because this is a public site, when does the line cross over where the Supreme Court needs to take over this site and/or advise every single member of the branch that in, say, 30 days, this blog is an official State of California blog? Try and imagine this kind of blog in the Governor’s branch or the Legislature. If they are watching they are laughing. You cannot deny California judges their free speech.

  47. Real Party in Interest: In fairness, the phase 1 & 2 PTC project involved much more than focus groups. While I don’t work in the AOC’s EOP division where the study was housed, I do know that PTC undertook an extensive survey of California attorneys and several hundreds of Californians with experience of the courts. “Name With held” can probably shed more light on the extent of PTC, which took place over a 2 year time frame. As I’ve already mentioned, my problem with PTC was its thinly disguised PR roots. Granted, PTC may have provided input to the council’s six year strategic plan, but its use as a taxpayer funded advertising campaign for the JC/AOC has been the big prize. Hardly a speech the Chief or the Administrative Director has given since 2006 fails to draw strategically selected, even abridged, talking points from PTC.

    • Real Party in Interest

      Agreed. And I like the “giant blog” idea. You could have AOC Watcher, Supreme Court Watcher, Appellate Court Watcher, Trial Court Watcher. After a while, people would get used to it and start poasting away. It’s like a beehive that busts and the bees have to find new hives. But all password protected and everyone using their real name. That is the best idea I have had in almost 5 decades. The Governor or the President could issue an Order tomorrow. 🙂

  48. I agree. Give people 30 days warning that there will be a State of California blog dedicated to members of the judicial branch. It requires e-mail and identification verification (we know all our employees names, we are not the DMV after all). Such web sites that allow limited access to a few thousand state employees are easily created in 30 days all around the world.

  49. Not to be paranoid but I would like that for security reasons. 60 Minutes had a horrific piece on China spying on the U.S. Can’t the CIO make a password protected blog site for judicial branch members only? It just seems appropriate for the branch to have a forum where people can take pride in their work, share best practices, and not worry about some random open blog.

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      In less than a day. However, you have no right of free speech with respect to your employer, meaning you’re handing control of the message back to the AOC. Not a high priority item on my list right now.

      • JusticeCalifornia

        And, once again speaking from experience, public blogging is the most effective form of communication in a situation like this. And that means, in a David and Goliath situation, where the giant has been demanding, arrogant, retaliatory, oppressive and–most importantly–underhanded (a VERY bad thing in the judiciary–especially when that underhanded behavior is documented) with quite a few people.

        Not to mention that it drives the CJ and his followers crazy, crazy, crazy, because he has absolutely NO control over the message.

    • Claire Voyant

      Is it really David v. Goliath? Common Cause could file suit against the California Supreme Court tomorrow, saying they can’t set their own donation limits so why even go down the road and waste taxpayer money. Maybe they already have.

      My point is, what is best for the people who work in the judicial branch who want to make suggestions or to raise valid criticizism? Is it really here? If that’s the case, I guess so.

      • Claire Voyant

        And PS, if this blog is going to allow and encourage criticism of the Judicial Council, it should be called Judicial Council Watcher. The Governor believes the agency is called Judicial Council of California.

        It’s an insult to 900 employees to blame all the problems of the branch on them. Please change the name or you may begin to lose participation.

  50. Real Party in Interest

    I agree. I mean this in a purely constructive way, but the Council does have power over the Administrative Director. As shown with the audit proposal, they can kick anything back. I don’t know if they have the power to fire him or her, but they do they have the ultimate power regarding spending, so they are the accountable body. And I would rather have the Council decide the value of my program, rather than a regional director who is naturally going to be looking out for her or his own interests.

  51. If you take motions, yes, please rename this blog Judicial Council Watcher. It might even encourage council members to speak up more freely, and explain their positions or help to mediate, because they can be leaders and explain the reasoning that was reached. Wouldn’t that be nice?

  52. Name Withheld

    It’s true. The Chief Justice does not even work in the AOC building. All along the beef has been with the Chief and/or decisions the Council has made (or manipulated to make) that the AOC then has to implement. It’s the Judicial Council of California as the body that you need to focus on. It also will encourage real change, including employees feeling they can speak directly to Council members.

    • As an example, if more than half of employees in a particular division were upset about their director, they should logically be able to put it on a Council agenda, no matter what the A.D. thinks. That is the kind of real change that is needed for AOC employees, otherwise the climate of fear and reprisal will worsen.

      PS, I read something horrible tonight. Those named as defendants know what I am talking about.

  53. JusticeCalifornia

    If you want to get technical, I do believe the Judicial Council and the AOC and the Commission on Judicial Performance all belong (figuratively and practically speaking) , first and foremost, to the Chief Justice of the CA Supreme Court.

    Those he appoints/hires are naturally going to be beholden to him, and follow his direction.

    However, the judiciary is not a normal “business”. Those in leadership positions at the JC, AOC and CJP all have legal and ethical duties of their own, imposed by their positions/professions, and federal and state laws, and their duties to the public they serve, the legislature that funds them, and the employees that keep the branch running.

    I hope they remember that, in the days ahead.

    And Claire Voyant, I do very much like the idea of suing the CA Supreme Court, in the event it approves or tries to implement the CIC’s campaign contribution recommendations , in willful, knowing, and intentional violation of disqualification laws.

    • Claire Voyant

      Then call it Chief Justice Watcher. It’s only my opinion, but I think it gets the waters muddy to have a blog attacking the “AOC” when in reality, people are upset with the Chief Justice, the decisions of the Judicial Council, and some people in the AOC. Most employees at the AOC have never met the Chief Justice or even watched a Supreme Court oral argument. If the primary agenda is calling the Chief Justice on the carpet for mistakes or disagreement over HIS leadership, then the blog should be called something more in line with that agenda. Food for thought for the blog master.

  54. I’m sorry, but if you think the AOC’s Executive leadership doesn’t play a major role in shaping branch policy, then you can’t have been paying attention. Who do you think commissions, edits, and revises those voluminous reports that go to the council for a vote? Those tomes don’t generally originate at the council level. Rather, they usually bubble up from the Administrative Director, Division Directors, and other AOC insiders with an agenda to further and programs to protect. Yes, the Chief and powerful advisory committee members weigh in to initiate policy; but the ball usually gets rolling internally. To discount the role of the AOC to mere implementers is to ignore the huge role it plays in initiating, shaping, and recommending branch policy.

    • Wendy Darling

      As well implementing, enforcing it, or ignoring it, often according to the Chief Justice’s and the Executive Office’s/Vickrey’s own convenience or unique interpretation of “branch policy.”

  55. JusticeCalifornia

    Yes, it’s all interconnected. The administrative branch wields tremendous power, over money, court projects, court reports, court employees, court records, and overall court philosophy/ethics–whether it is at the state level (AOC), or the county level (Court Executive Officers).

    Here is a little example:

  56. AllianceSupporter

    Fly on The Wall – The omission of Appellate and Supreme Court Justices from CCP 170.1 coverage was corrected by the Supreme Court in 2005 by the enactment of Canons 3E(4) and 3E(5) of the California Code of Judicial Ethics. These provisions are identical to the disqualification sections of CCP 170.1(a), and specifically require disqualification of an appellate justice if “the circumstances are such that a reasonable person aware of the facts would doubt the justice’s ability to be impartial.” (Canon 3E(4)(c)).

  57. Thanks for the correction!

  58. Also want to weigh in on the idea that giving the contribution back to avoid disqualification if the donor’s interests show up in a case doesn’t seem like an ethical course of action. Timing is everything in elections, and if the donation helped the justice keep the seat it’s hard to imagine how giving it back after the seat is secured lessens the conflict. The justice already knows the person was willing to give a large donation, and if the ruling is in favor of the donor-litigant (or donor attorney), it’s reasonable to assume they’ll be there for the justice again in the next retention election.