Court Closures Get New Critic…Justice George

Nope.  You didn’t read that wrong.  While I, and everybody else it seems, was focused on Justice George’s comments about the ACJ in his speech before the legislature last week, what may have gotten lost in the hubbub was that Justice George apparently had also come out against court closures. At least that’s according to the Associated Press.

California’s chief justice says shutting down courthouses one day a month should no longer be considered an option for helping the state close its budget deficit.

Supreme Court Justice Ronald George said lawmakers should instead consider extending the temporary sales and personal income tax increases that took effect last year.

He addressed a joint session of the Assembly and Senate on Tuesday during his annual State of the Judiciary speech.

Yikes!  Not sure which part I’m surprised about.  The part that he came out against court closures or the part where he recommends extending tax increases.  If Californians were unhappy with his and the Judicial Council’s desicion to implement closures, something tells me they aren’t going to be too thrilled with his suggestion of extending taxes either.

The funny thing is I reread his speech and couldn’t find anywhere in it where he suggested he was against court closures or that he suggested extending tax increases.  But I’m happy to be proven wrong if anyone else can find it.

And wait a minute…first you were for court closures and now you’re against them?  Hmmm…why does that make me think of this?

7 responses to “Court Closures Get New Critic…Justice George

  1. Ahh yeaahh and did not the JC agree to continue the closures over the objection of ACJ? Yes AOC Watcher I caught that too…that the CJ’s tone could be interpreted as blaming the legislature for the JC’s decision to close the courts one day a month over the objections of the judiciary? Apparently (and I am not name calling here just giving my opinions) it is easier for the CJ to capitulate this way rather than appear to succumb to dissention in the branch? Just wonderin

  2. JusticeCalifornia

    Or is it the bad publicity, good photo ops, negative response from the legislature (an audit of the AOC, for heaven’s sake, to find out how George is spending that $4 billion) and questionable legality of it all that has changed the CJ’s mind? (Query: how is the CA Supreme Court going to be able to rule on the legality of our Governor’s furloughs, when George and his Judicial Council have voted to close courts once a month themselves? Isn’t that a bit of a conflict of interest?)


  3. I have to disagree with courtflea; I think the CJ wrote this part of his speech 10 months ago when the AOC first floated the court closure idea. The CJ’s recent statements about court closures being an unacceptable alternative in 10-11, is all part of a well orchestrated plan.

    The CJ/AOC pushed for court closures to demonstrate how badly courts were impacted by the budget reductions. They knew the reaction from the courts, the union and the public would be so negative, the legislature wouldn’t dare put the judicial branch in a position where closures would have to continue for another year.

    At the same time, the JC drained all of the special Fund reserves, which could have been used for court operations, on completing the CCMS V4 project.

    The CJ plans to leverage the pushback the AOC received from the unions, the media and the ACJ, to advocate for more funding from the legislature. Suddenly, the judicial branch will be speaking with “one voice” when the CJ/AOC goes to legislature to get funding restored. Because the special fund reserves have been drained and the SB 1407 contribution is capped at $20 million based on last year’s 18-month budget, there are no more “rocks to look under” for more money. The AOC will put the legislature in a position where it, not the JC, will have to tell the unions, the attorneys and the bench that furloughs will contine.

    The only other option will be for the legislature to breack into the SB 1407 piggy bank to keep the courts open. Given the JC/AOC lined up support from “54 of the 58” presiding judges and the powerful construction trades association, it wil be difficult to find the political will in the California legislature to do this.

    Ignoring the fact the JC/AOC sacrificed 10 days of public access to justice by ordering closures for its own policital gain, it was a brilliant strategy.

    • Chuck Horan

      Great insight, WBF.

      Sort of like a guy who sends his kids to school dressed in rags and with no lunch money while he blows his paycheck on a shiny new bass boat that the family really could do without, in the belief that somebody generous will step in and feed and clothe his kids for him. Problem is, even if somebody is feeling charitable, (and the legislature isn’t) the guy still has to deal with the resentment of the kids after it’s all over.

  4. PattyJaneSmith

    Great observations, WBF! I think the Legislature is on to this game plan though. Essentially, what you’ve laid out is a plan to make the Legislature either hand over some money from somewhere or be the bad guys for continuing to keep the courts closed. From what I understand, is that Legislators who have been working on Judiciary issues were sort of clued into this after the Chief’s State of the Judiciary and they were not happy. I think the Chief, the JC and the AOC have backed themselves into a corner and have no real exit plan that would be acceptable to all of the players.

  5. National News

    I also question the brilliance of any plan when it’s well known that the California case management system has drained not only trial courts but California taxpayers from millions of dollars they could have used to keep courts open and avoid layoffs, and the AOC has very little to show for all their effort and expense. This will only be compounded by the Teri Takai report due out this month.

  6. Very insightful WBF! Politics at this level is way beyond me, but you are most likely absolutely right.