Former AOC Employee Jack Urquhart Files Suit Against AOC

If you’re a regular AOC Watcher reader than you MUST know Jack Urquhart. He’s the former AOC employee who many believe is the one that set in motion what would become the strongest opposition to the AOC and the Judicial Council that either agency has ever seen.

San Francisco Superior Court Civil Courthouse

And how did one man do this and why is he a former AOC employee?  Well, because he had the AUDACITY to complain to his AOC supervisors that the AOC was spending money needlessly on conference in the midst of a severe state budget crisis. When his pleas for financial common sense were ignored, Mr. Urquhart bravely turned over to media representatives the costs of some of the AOC junkets including $82,000 for the AOC annual meeting. And when the news broke and the AOC went on the warpath to try and figure out who was responsible for leaking info to the media, Mr. Urquhart confessed.

Needless to say, the AOC’s response to his actions was anything but warm as detailed yesterday when the Daily Journal reported that Jack Urquhart filed a lawsuit against the AOC this past January in San Francisco Superior Court..

“In his suit, filed Jan. 21 in San Francisco County Superior Court, Jack Urquhart accuses the agency of violating the California Whistleblower Protections and Fair Employment and Housing acts. Urquhart’s former boss, Dianne Bolotte, and the director of their division, Kenneth Kann, are named as co-defendants in the suit that seeks damages in excess of $25,000.

During the course of that meeting, Defendant Bolotte repeatedly referred to Plaintiff as a ‘sick, angry and emotionally distraught man’ ‘beset by personal problems’, told Plaintiff that he needed ‘professional counseling’ and he needed to ‘concentrate on getting well,'” the suit said. “These and other comments lead Plaintiff to believe that he would more than likely be terminated.” Instead, Bolotte escorted Urquhart to the human resources department where she instructed an employee to prepare his retirement papers, according to the suit. Kann later sent Urquhart an e-mail supporting Bolotte’s actions and stating the only option was his retirement.

Of course considering that the lawsuit has been filed across the street from AOC headquarters in San Francisco, it goes without saying that plenty of people in that office, and throughout the state for that matter, will be folllowing this lawsuit closely.

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64 responses to “Former AOC Employee Jack Urquhart Files Suit Against AOC

  1. Obi-Wan Kenobi

    It’s a little difficult for the AOC to enter into one of those all too familiar non-disclosure agreements when a suit like this is so widely publicized challenging the AOC’s purported exemption to whistleblower laws.

    The real question the average californian and judicial officials around the state should be asking themselves is why did the AOC go to such great extent to cover up legally required whistleblower postings around the AOC for over ten years as in – what do they have to hide?

  2. Obi: What is meant by “non-disclosure agreement”? Also, what was the gist of the Daily Journal piece and who was the author?

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      When the AOC does something questionable with respect to their dismissal practices (as they did with Jack) and the matter goes to court, the AOC tries to settle the matter pretrial so none of these cases ends up as being a news story.

      Something to the effect of making an offer of a conditional settlement. The AOC will settle with litigants they wrongfully terminated as long as said litigant does not disclose the nature or the reason for the settlement.

      In the courts records, it takes the form of the plaintiff dismissing their suit against the AOC typically by being starved into a legal settlement.

      An example would be an employee less than two years from being eligible for retirement being terminated and filing suit and the AOC offering to put them back on the payroll long enough to get retirement benefits on the condition that they not disclose the terms of settlement.

      What I wonder about is does the AOC provide legal defense for employees engaging in such alleged wrongdoing their official capacities when they are named defendants? Are my taxpayer dollars going to be expended to defend Diane Bolotte & Ken Kann or will they be paying their own legal bills for their questionable behavior?

      I hold a personal opinion that such NDA settlements by public entities should be unenforcable as not being in the public interest.

      Voters (and others) need to know when a public agency or branch of government is not complying with the law, the public interest or employing discriminatory practices. An analysis of the record will find plaintiff dismissals of actions against the AOC commonplace.

      • Re: Nondisclosure Agreements – I think there is some case law out there dealing with the ability of a public entity to reach a confidential settlement. I believe OGC has the authority to settle claims up to $100K. Anything more than that needs approval of the litigation management committee. I would expect at least the decision of the litigation management committee on the settlement of a claim of more than $100k would be a public record. Therefore, I am not sure it matters if there is a confidentiality provision in the settlement agreement.
        Rule 10.201 et seq.

        I belive there is a Labor Code or Government Code section requiring an employer to defend and indemnify an employee sued for acts falling within the course and scope of employment. So yes, your tax dollars will be used to defend the named defendants.

        Unless Mr. Uruqhat’s performance history was such that his termination could be justified on some other grounds, it does not seem like a case the AOC would want to take before a SF jury. I am sure there will be an argument that he voluntarily resigned, but given the limited facts I know, good luck with that. He tells his boss he is the one that leaked the information to the press and several hours later he “retires”. Doesn’t pass the smell test. His status as an at-will employee might provide the AOC a defense by way of summary judgment on the wrongful termination related causes of action. However, without knowing much about employment law, the ADA/Unruh Act claims might get the case before a jury. I understand Mr. Uruqhat would make a fairly compelling plaintiff and under the facts, the jury would be looking for any reason to vindicate him. It will be interesting.

  3. You can go to the August archives of this blog and then go to the 15th of August to refresh your knowledge of this matter.

    The most recent article I know about is one written by Cheryl Miller of the Recorder dated March 8, 2010. The article discusses whether or not whistle blower protection applies to AOC employees. The article is well written ( as we have come to expect from Ms. Miller) and I commend it to you.

  4. Joshmadisonn

    Finally something about people as opposed to all-technology-all-the-time. Anyone know what the two articles had to say about this case?

  5. Thanks, Obi and WBF. Yes, this one will be very interesting.

  6. ConcernedReConsolidation

    Josh: Miller says in her most recent article that apparently Urqhart’s legal contention is that he was covered under the Whistleblower Protection Act.

  7. What did Mr. Urqhart reveal to the public that caused him to be terminated?

    Omerta believes he spoke to Mr. Jeff Ackerman who is the publisher of The Union newspaper. Your can read the article Mr. Ackerman published by going to http://www.theunion.com and then typing in “AOC” in the search slot. You will then see some articles on the left of the screen. Go to the one dated 7/21/09. Reading this article will help to explain why the AOC did what it did.

    Should you not go to Mr. Ackerman’s article let me fill you in on some of its points: CCMS was costing 1.1 billion and California was 26 billion in the red. Nevada County courthouse employees were being laid off.

    What did the AOC do? They had, in June of 2009, a three day party in San Francisco, spending $40,000.00 on five facilitators and later another $10,000.00 for yet another facilitator; the Hilton meeting rooms cost $42,000.00; the 70 attendees then repaired to a cocktail party called “The O’Leary Reception”; later the attendees went to Golden Gate Park where they had another cocktail party which cost $6000.00. All of this was authorized by Mr. Vickrey according to a memo that Mr. Ackerman was able to obtain. Mr. Ackerman did not reveal where he was able to obtain the above information.

    What was discussed at this party (conference)? the answer is, “The California Judicial Branch Budget Crisis.”
    Guess what? Mr Ackerman found this party to be an outrage.

    The AOC had to shut up Mr. Urqhart and anyone else in the AOC who might reveal to the public how public money was being spent.

    Since that article in July what have we seen? $1000.00 per square foot courthouses when the Feds seem to build them at 1/3 of this price; a CCMS system that is costing more than 1.7 billion; an alledged embezzlement of AOC funds; and on and on.

    There is a song by Shawn Colvin titled “Kill the Messenger” The final lines of that song illustrate the relationship between the termination of Mr. Urqhart and the AOC.

    Here they are:

    They are masters in the sleigh of hand
    They are dancers and they step so grand
    To the shibboleth of Shadowland.
    Heed the message, kill the messenger.

    The AOC, masters in the sleigh of hand,
    “killed” the messenger but the Legislature, the press, and the public heard the message which is that the Chief Justice, the Judicial Council and the AOC are out of control.

  8. versal-versal

    Mr Urquhart is a good and honest man. Please contact your state Assembly and Senate representatives and ask them to adopt protections for AOC employees that speak out about problems they see within the AOC or Judicial Council. Our great democracy should always protect those with the courage to step forward with dissenting , sincere and honest viewpoints.

  9. Name Withheld

    Agreed.

  10. Obi-Wan Kenobi

    Interesting commentary at Sign On San Diego-

    First, a letter circulated via listserve – The propaganda machine of the JC/AOC uh… Ministery of Truth at work.

    http://www3.signonsandiego.com/weblogs/minute-orders-courts/2010/mar/05/war-words-grows-among-state-judges/

    Second, a reply from the directors of the ACJ.
    “No olive branches in sight”

    http://wwww.signonsandiego.com/weblogs/minute-orders-courts/2010/mar/08/no-olive-branches-sight-long/

    Third it’s usually a really, really bad idea to pick a fight with the media.

    http://www.metnews.com/

    Go down to “Letters to the Editor from Justice Huffman and a must-read reply from the editor labled “Judge Horan Levels Wrongful Accusations”

  11. Former AOC staffer

    I agree also. I’ve known Jack for years and am just so sorry he has had to end his distinguished career with the AOC in this manner. He is a thoughtful, bright and hard working person. I am glad he has brought suit if for no other reason than to counter the unthruths of Dianne Bolotte. Sad how blind ambition on her part has created so much government waste.

  12. JusticeCalifornia

    I also am grateful that Mr. Urquhart is filing suit.

    I am not a judge, but I am an officer of the court, and I can verify that brutal retaliation, coordinated obfuscation of facts and issues all the way up and down the chain of command, and mudslinging are the defensive weapons of choice for members of our top CA court leadership. And that trickles down.

    The conversation on this blog is undoubtedly uncomfortable for most judges to read. But I am certain that trailblazing Alliance members understand what “traditional” court critics have been up against, for years. It isn’t fair, and it isn’t legal, and it isn’t pleasant.

    Average members of the public expect the judicial branch to be beyond reproach, ethically speaking. They expect and to some extent believe that everyone in the branch, and in power, believes in and upholds the Constitution, due process, impartiality, and so much more–even if it comes at a personal cost.

    Most people don’t understand the personal cost of fighting court corruption, especially at the highest levels — and you know that is what we are talking about.

    Speaking from personal experience, working for justice–at personal cost– is a very tough endeavor. But certain people are equipped to do it, and in a position to do it–and it has to be done.

    So those who are equipped to do it, and are in a position to do it, and/or were elected or appointed or hired to do it, must, to borrow a phrase, just do it.

    And grateful thanks to all those who do.

    Yes, Omerta. The Chief Justice, the Judicial Council, and AOC leadership are out of control.

  13. Obi-Wan Kenobi

    I’m glad to see that Mr. Urquhart file suit and challenge the AOC’s purported exemption to whistleblower laws.

    With respect to the other causes of action, I believe the AOC is going to have an impossible time with a San Francisco jury. No matter what cause of action some, if not all of it is going to stick.

    They should just reinstate Jack, pay him what he is due, admit fallability and move on.

    Of course, the AOC is beyond making a mistake and so they will spend money they don’t have going to war against what most know to be a good employee and a pleasant, professional coworker.

  14. JusticeCalifornia

    I agree that it is absolutely imperative to have court whistleblower protection, and a jury, in court whistleblower actions.

    Check out what happens when a court whistleblower just has a very bad judge (no jury), backed by very protective higher courts.

    http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_14647621#article_comments

    And this is why the CA system must change.

    Google Richard Fine, and read his story. I do not know the personal facts of his case, but I can tell you I also don’t know ANYONE who has been put in solitary confinement for a year, without a trial, and with no end of incarceration in sight, for what he is alleged to have done.

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      It’s certainly looking like Mr. Fine is a political prisoner as a critic as opposed to a criminal. I’ve followed his story. I am disturbed by the overall message the fine case “example” message sends to other court system critics.

  15. Real Party in Interest

    This is where AOC employees (to me) are in a strange neverland. Judges know to not comment on pending litigation. There are serious consequences to those actions. You would think the AOC would tell its employees, every single one, to not comment on pending litigation, even on an anonymous blog. I can’t help wonder … is there not a single attorney in the AOC that feels any even the slightes bodily inclination to act like a trained employment lawyer in the private or federal sector? Does the AOC have (or have not) a constitutional obligation to protect every employee from harm?

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      The AOC employees, to my knowledge, have not been informed to not comment on pending litigation nor are they parties to the action.

  16. Claire Voyant

    To give people perspective, if a judge found out that his or her law clerk was talking smack on a pending case on a blog from home, that clerk would probably be terminated immediately (and any judge can agree or disagree with me here). There is no reason that AOC employees should be held to a lower standard than court employees (it’s one branch yada yada).

    • Why do you assert “that clerk would probably be terminated immediately”? Do you mean a case pending in that law clerk’s court? I don’t know what a judge would do in that situation, since there are so many variables that still need to be identified. But jumping straight to termination seems so … terminal. Its not that no one should ever lose his or her job for workplace violations, but I tend to look on these as training opportunities initially.

      • Claire Voyant

        I agree Judge Fall. I should have clarified … in most instances, do not court clerks know as part of their work in the justice system that its best to not comment on pending litigation in public or printed forums? Jumping right to termination would be extreme, but if the practice continued? My only point is that the AOC takes the silent route on these matters, rather than discussing larger issues with its employees.

  17. JusticeCalifornia

    Ummm…..Is Richard Fine’s case “pending litigation”?

    What exactly is pending, besides his endless . . . .long drawn out. . . .. brutal. . . . . solitary confinement?

    And shouldn’t court critics at all levels be able to talk about what is happening to other court critics?

    • Claire Voyant

      You my dear, can criticize away. That is your right of free speech.

      • JusticeCalifornia

        Free speech. . . .

        I misunderstood your prior comments. I see you weren’t referring to Fine, you were cautioning AOC employees about the possible danger of publicly talking about Mr.
        Urquhart’s case against the AOC.

        If there is no cautionary or contractual provision in an employee’s employment contract, can the AOC forbid employees from or punish employees for discussing or publicly supporting Mr. Urquhart (as opposed to revealing confidential AOC information)?

    • Claire Voyant

      Doubtful. But litigation is not discussed at the AOC, period.

      If I was a partner at a law firm and my firm was being sued, I would advise my employees to not comment publically on the case because it will protect them later if they are summoned and called to testify under oath. But that is only my opinion and it comes from an ethic of working in law firms for several years. If people want to comment generally on the AOC or its practices, that is fine, but I would not recommend current AOC employees comment on this case involving Mr. Urquhart.

      Only my opinion, but I would let the justice system do what it is is supposed to do. You are an officer of the court, and you are aware of your rights. I am not quite sure that AOC employees are aware of their rights because no one talks to them frankly.

  18. Real Party in Interest

    And my only question was, what is the policy for AOC employees regarding commentary when the AOC is a named defendant? For bench officers, discussion enters a completely different reality when a case enters the courts. It’s trial by jury, not trial by blog.

  19. And when does the line cross between AOC employees mistaking advice here from an actual attorney, because the AOC (full of attorneys) does not advise 900 employees well enough on the inside?

    B.H. you need to talk to people. People can file malpractice suits against the State Bar.

    • The attorneys employed by the AOC are not attorneys for the employees of the AOC or the courts. They are attorneys for the Judicial Council, AOC, and the courts themselves. Just like in-house counsel at Microsoft or any other big company are not the attorneys for the individual employees, but for the company itself.

      • Real Party in Interest

        Correct. However, I have only witnessed one presentation given by an AOC employment lawyer, and it was for (I believe) a trial court audience. Who is the employment lawyer at the AOC who gives the same presentation for management employees of the AOC and how often do they receive it? M.R.? What is that person’s name J.D., because he or she might need to be disbarred for failure to properly train AOC management. Just my opinion.

  20. So in your opinion, the lawyer should be disbarred where the client ignores the advice?

  21. Name Withheld

    I also should tell you that attorneys like to play poker and this site is drawing out the sharks.

    You are on your own now, Judge Dredd.

    • I have no idea what that poker comment means. As for “lawyers are sharks” jokes, I’ve been an attorney a long time and my skin is pretty thick to barbs like that.

      My concern is for my clients and for the overall state of the practice of law in California. In my (perhaps not humble opinion), it has been better in the last 10-15 years than in the years before that.

  22. Furthermore, what should be the consequence when a court ignores the legal advice of the Office of General Counsel?

    • JusticeCalifornia

      Based on precedent, the presiding judge or CEO of the offending court should be placed on the Judicial Council forthwith. And the offending court should be punished severely, by being shut down the third Wednesday of every month.

    • Lawyers give advice, and clients act after receiving that advice. Clients, though, make their own decisions about what action to take.

      As for the actions of local courts, those actions are the responsibility of the locally elected judges. As the elected officials of the individual Superior Court, they are the only policy makers responsible for the day to day policies, decisions and operations of the local courts. And they are answerable to those who have the real power, the voters.

      Tim Fall
      Judge, Yolo Superior Court

  23. JusticeCalifornia

    Judge Fall, I must respectfully disagree. The Constitution, statutes and cases set forth laws, procedures, and policies that all local courts are supposed to follow.

    As long as the local courts follow the law, are fiscally responsible to and faithfully serve the public, local court autonomy should be the rule.

    But if courts break the law, and refuse to be fiscally responsible to and faithfully serve their public, they must be held accountable. And I have found that this is where the process breaks down, at both state and local levels. Mandatory statewide Judicial Performance Evaluations at all court levels, designed to measure compliance with the Code of Judicial Ethics, repeatedly have been suggested to provide a measure of public accountability.

    Elections often do not provide sufficient accountability. First, they are infrequent. Second, voters may have no choice in the selection of judges– local lawyers are not anxious to run against local, powerful, well-funded, politically connected, appointed judges – no matter how problematic those incumbent judges may be. Third, voters generally know very little, and are told very little, about judicial elections and candidates/incumbents.

    That said, many are grateful that there is a Supreme Court retention election this year. . .

    • Hi JusticeCalifornia:

      Good point about the fact that “The Constitution, statutes and cases set forth laws, procedures, and policies that all local courts are supposed to follow,” as you put it.

      I took that as a given and did not think I needed to state expressly that Judges are required to follow the law as they establish policies for their local courts. But I will do so here for the sake of clarity: the locally elected judges, in compliance with the Constitution, statutes and case law, are the ones responsible for how the local courts operate. As for the effectiveness of judicial elections, whatever that effectiveness may be does not alter that when it comes to court administration (and all other aspects of their jobs) local judges are ultimately responsible to the voters who do in fact have the power to change judges through the ballot box.

      That means that the operations of my local court are the responsibility of me and my colleagues here in my court. We are not answerable for them to the judges in the neighboring county, the court of appeal, or anyone else in the Judicial Branch. We are answerable to our voters for whether we are operating the court properly. Why do I say that? Because that’s how the California Constitution sets it up.

      Art 6, Sec. 1. “The judicial power of this State is vested in the Supreme Court, courts of appeal, and superior courts, all of which are courts of record.”

      Art. 6, Sec. 4. “In each county there is a superior court of one or more judges.”

      Thus, the Judicial Branch consists of the courts and the courts consist of their judges. Each Superior Court is a constituent part of the branch. Each judge on that court is a constituent part of the court. So I reiterate that when it comes to who is ultimately responsible for how trial courts run, it is the locally elected judges.

      Tim Fall
      Judge, Yolo Superior Court

      P.S. Please don’t read this as any sort of denigration of the hard working staff at all levels of the Judicial Branch . I am only writing about the ultimate constitutional authority and responsibility for the branch. If you want to see how highly I value the work of our staff, just come hang out at the Yolo County Courthouse for a while.

      P.P.S. Also, please don’t take this as some sort of a call for the “fiefdom” model. It’s not about whether there should or should not be statewide standardization, it’s about where the buck stops. It stops here.

  24. Judge Fall:

    The place where I respectfully disagree is that I think now, judges ought to view themselves as state, not county, officials. That would mean that you and your judicial colleagues are answerable to all of the citizens of the state, not just the residents of your county. I know that, election-wise, this is not the case; only voters in your county vote for you. But as an attorney with a statewide practice, it concerns me. If a judge does everything he or she can to please the residents of his or her county, that could mean doing things like trying to maximize the autonomy or monetary allocation for his or her court. While that may play well for the local voter, for those of us who frequent many different courts, it can be a detriment. After all, if Court A takes a disproportionate share of the pie, that is to the detriment of Courts B, C, D, E, etc. — and the attorneys who practice there.

    My only point is, I would encourage judges to view themselves as elected officials of ALL California citizens, not just the electorate of their respective counties. After all, it’s not just your local citizens who appear in your courts. We’re all in this justice system together.

    • Hi Judge_Dredd:

      You are not the only one with statewide law practice experience. I practiced up and down this state for years before joining the bench. Your points are much the same as I would have made in that regard.

      As a judge, I see myself as responsible to the people of this state by way of my role as an elected official in the statewide Judicial Branch. And that role is the one I inhabit by virtue of my position as a judge of my Superior Court.

      But the various Superior Courts are not merely the Judicial Branch version of the local DMV offices. Each Superior Court is run by elected officials. If we do not run the court properly the voters are not going to say, “What do those folks on the Judicial Council think they are doing?” Instead, they will properly look no further than the locally elected judges.

      No one – elected or appointed – has a greater responsibility to the voters in my county (or those statewide, for that matter) regarding how the court here operates than I and my fellow Yolo Superior Court judges.

      Tim Fall
      Judge, Yolo Superior Court

  25. JusticeCalifornia

    Judge Fall, thank you for this excellent and cogent explanation.

    With the underlying assumption that a superior court is following the law, I think we are in complete agreement.

  26. JusticeCalifornia

    Judge_ Dredd,

    If the underlying assumption is that CA law and the CA Code of Judicial Ethics are followed (assuming the latter is not altered at the direction of a couple of Supreme Court Justices up for 2010 retention election, who believe they can take unlimited contributions from litigants or lawyers and still hear their cases, no problem), the obligation to act in an ethical and responsible manner, to protect the CA public’s trust and confidence in the CA judiciary, requires a judge to consider the entire CA public, not just citizens of his or her community.

    Does anyone disagree?

  27. JusticeCalifornia

    Judge Fall, you said:

    “But the various Superior Courts are not merely the Judicial Branch version of the local DMV offices. Each Superior Court is run by elected officials. If we do not run the court properly the voters are not going to say, “What do those folks on the Judicial Council think they are doing?” Instead, they will properly look no further than the locally elected judges.”

    Judge Fall, I most strongly disagree. Certain superior court members of the massive judicial branch have been operating corruptly, for years, with the knowledge and protection of top leadership.

    And, sort of like an aggressive and untreated STD, this unabated dynamic is at worst infecting – or at best tainting the reputation of — the entire CA judiciary.

    • Hi JusticeCalifornia:

      The original question which started my posts on this subject asked who is responsible for how the courts operate. At least, that’s how I took the question. So I answered that under the law the responsibility is basically that of the elected judges.

      Your latest post goes to a different issue. If there are judges who are not following the law, then my earlier comments are not meant to apply to such situations.

      Tim Fall
      Judge, Yolo Superior Court

  28. And on the eleventh day Bill Vickery woke up and asked himself “Whom might I be able to place at the helm of the HR division who will rid me of these pesky whistleblowers?”

    That would be Mr. Ernesto V. Fuentes. You might remember Mr. Fuentes from a certain appellate court ruling.

    http://articles.latimes.com/1994-12-07/local/me-6010_1_appellate-court

    Yes…. that Mr. Fuentes H.R. department.

    Covering up for corruption for over 20 years.

    • JusticeCalifornia

      Heading out into the sunshine, but I was feeling creative this morning. I adapted the third verse of this catchy tune (you can fast forward to 2:35), what do you think?

      “Whistleblower, and ya want him gone?
      Won’t keep his big mouth shut
      Public naggin at ya night and day
      Enough to drive ya nuts.

      Pick up the phone
      I’m here alone
      It’s time you make a plan

      For a fee
      I’m happy to be
      Your back door man

      Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
      Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”

  29. We feel its pretty easy to detail numerous appointments that have in common one degree of separation between a scandal and an appointment by the chief justice or the executive director.

    The more you look, the more you know.

  30. SF Court Observer

    I, for one, hope that JusticeCalifornia is not lost to us in pursuit of a new career in the music world…..

    I also believe that the any lyrics set to music related to Jack Uruquart or the plight of Richard Fine requires that the lyricist lay it down as….the Blues…

    I recently heard Yvon Chouinard stating “to do good you have to do something”…..

    What can be done to help Richard Fine?

  31. JusticeCalifornia

    The integrity of the entire CA judicial branch and the lives of innumerable good people are being hurt —and, in some cases destroyed–under the current “regime”.

    Chief Justice Ron George is the self-proclaimed “mastermind” of this regime, and Ming Chin seems to be his judicial right-hand man of choice. It would seem that since the chief makes appointments and runs the show on so many levels, true change requires a change in top court leadership and administration. Justices George and Chin have just set themselves up to be massively well funded during their 2010 retention elections. Together, through the so-called “Commission on Impartial Courts” (appointed by Ron George, and chaired by Chin) they have engineered it so –with the CIC’s and Judicial Council’s blessing–they can take $25,899 from a campaign donor today — and hear that donor’s case tomorrow. . . and they can take–what– $200,000, or $300,000 or more from a donor today, and hear that donor’s case in 2012. The CIC made these recommendations, and the CA Judicial Council (appointed by Ron George) unanimously signed off on that—happily joking during the process.

    So how does the public fight that? It is ironic that in other states judges are reportedly worried about fighting big money/special interest opposition, while in California, the PUBLIC is worried about fighting special interest money the Chief Justice has just arranged to generate for himself and Ming Chin. (And both George and Chin have conceded that there is no big money opposition in CA Supreme Court retention elections for them to fight.)

    Is there a dedicated effort/website yet, where everyone can coordinate with respect to the November 2010 retention elections?

  32. SF Court Observer

    May I suggest–

    Development of an effort to fix this broken, corrupt system requires creation of an effort focused upon whatever change can be achieved in a changing of the guard at the polls—

    ALSO—the ugly, nasty abuse of the system that has been institutionalized from within MUST be changed.

    Voting in a few new Judges will not change, as example, the fact that CJ George has surrounded himself with his hand-selected bobble-heads. When one attends a session of Judicial Council you are acutely aware that he appoints 14 of 21—-what giggle-test in which banana republic would this pass? Why don’t we just be more open and honest about something as basic as “Judicial Council” and call it “Ron’s Clubhouse” or something equally appropriate?

    How is it that something as basic as the make-up and composition of the Judicial Council can not be changed?—How can it possibly be appropriate for this “governing body” (for want of a better term) to NOT be properly composed through statewide election among Judges?

    The AOC was created by ballot initiative—-the initiative handily passed—It was cast as a cost-saving measure that would streamline and cause efficiencies throughout our Judicial system.

    The campaign and underlying premise that resulted in the initiative passing as easily as it did can now be documented as flawed through it’s obvious failures—or abuse in implementation…

    Perhaps it is time to do it again? Another “Judicial Reform” initiative??

  33. Claire Voyant

    JUDGES AND JUDICIARY OFFICIALS. ETHICS. CAMPAIGN FINANCING. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE.

    In my dreams.

    In the interim, why not establish a JAC Commission (Judiciary and Corruption)? It could function as an independent and impartial body, much like the Truth Commission in South Africa. It could encourage everyone to come forward who knows of improprieties that have taken place in the last 5 years (at every level of court), and issue an impartial report in September or October 2010. It would show extreme accountablity to the public before a major retention election takes place for the California judicial branch. Would you agree, Justice Chin?

    • Claire Voyant

      Of course, as part of the judicial branch, the AOC could also be part of the study and report by the JAC Commission. And as with court staff, everyone at the AOC would be welcome to testify whatever they felt was important to say to the commission, for the benefit of the public and to demonstrate complete transparency and accountabilty.

      • Real Party in Interest

        And have the JAC Commission members be appointed immediately by the White House and the whole effort be organized and run by the U.S. Department of Justice. That way people in San Francisco can go across the street if they want to testify. It’s wonderfully simple.

  34. Wendy Darling

    “Why don’t we just be more open and honest about something as basic as “Judicial Council” and call it “Ron’s Clubhouse” or something equally appropriate?”
    George’s Totalitarian Tyrants”
    “King George’s Puppet Privy Council”?
    Or, perhaps just simply, “Ron’s Reich”?

  35. SF Court Observer

    An Initiative is actually not as difficult as one might imagine—-

    This system has harmed so many in this State in so very many ways that developing support for a Statewide initiative might be more like a landslide than not—?

    The voice and will of the voters of this State are far more powerful when they actually create law than when they go to the polls with great hope and expectations that the candidate they elect will actually uphold existing law—

    The AOC today, would tell anyone that asks that they are paragon at impartial, unbiased, circumspect adherence to current law—which supports why new law is essential if reform is to be accomplished—

  36. Claire Voyant

    Initiatives are relatively easy to draft and file. Making sure they are legally sound and ultimately qualify for the ballot is a whole other story (involving money and statewide strategy).

    I am handing it over to the judges and the attorneys … I and others have tried to get the Chief’s attention but that is apparently not possible for an AOC worker, local judges or members of the public. Is there not a single member of the Judicial Council who has the confidence to post on this blog under their real name? Only a handful of judges from Yolo, Los Angeles or San Diego have that kind of confidence? You are on your own now Judge Dredd.

  37. You are right. There is not a single member of the Judicial Council who will post anything on AOC Watcher under his or her own name.

    I know they read this blog because I have been contacted, within hours, by a member (s) of the Judicial Council when I have posted something that was incorrect.

  38. SF Court Observer

    It strikes me as an unreasonable expectation that a member of “Ron’s Clubhouse” would go-over-the-wall. I have attended a meeting and was struck with how they all seem to wink and nod their heads in total agreement –at all times with CJ George. They all know that the implications of “decisions” made have very significant consequences. It’s truly difficult to refer to anything that happens as a “decision” unless one is honest enough to simply say out loud that nothing happens at Judicial Council that CJ George does not want, or permit to happen. When the members of this Council are as hand-selected as they are there is no possible outcome that does not reflect the will of the CJ—

    It is a total waste of funding to convene a meeting of this “Council” when the outcome of any matter before the group is already known to one individual—Is it possible that they all enjoy a trip to San Francisco and a reason to back-up to the pay window for their per diem? These meetings are about nothing other than a rubber stamp approval of the will of the CJ—

  39. JusticeCalifornia

    All avenues of change should be explored.

    What we are talking about here is not a simple judicial retention election, or makeover, it is a plan to overthrow the regime of a judicial leader who, for some reason or another, has a) become a ruthless politician/tyrant; b) surrounded himself with ethically challenged yes-men and yes-women; and c) is fostering a cult of corruption.

    To accomplish this, CA voters and legislators must be quickly and fully educated about what has gone on. Substantive, impeccable information must be readily available, on demand. A computer click away from any interested inquiring mind.

    To do that there must be comparison of notes of interested stakeholders, and a pooling of ironclad, fact-based, documented information, as well as creation of a website on which to post the information and related articles.

    Does that type of information clearinghouse/website exist yet?

    And at this juncture, I want to pause for a moment and say this:

    “Chief Justice George, on the eve of the Ides of March, I respectfully suggest that for the benefit of the judiciary, and the public, you should gracefully step aside before the election games begin in earnest.

    “You have associated yourself with a lot of bad actors, and you know the power of the pen. As brutal and retaliatory as you and your followers have been in trying to squelch dissent and silence critics, the dissenters and critics have only gotten louder. I will wager that our legislature cannot remember a time like this. . .when criticism of the judiciary was so diverse, persistent, loud, and widespread.

    “You can retire now, for the good of the branch, in a graceful handoff — with recognition that you did what you could, and then stepped down when it wasn’t working anymore. Or, you can get out your hatchet (which most assuredly is not the sword of justice), and try to slay fellow bench officers, and litigants, and advocates, and lawyers, and concerned citizens, and your own employees, in your effort to maintain the “empire” you have created.

    “With all due respect, sir, you’re fighting a losing battle. You are NOT fighting and attacking a “special interest/corporate bogeyman”, you are fighting and attacking your colleagues, employees, and the public you are supposed to serve.

    “Sir, it’s time to walk away, gracefully. Are you going to senselessly draw blood pounding your breast and stroking your ego, mortally wounding those bound to “stand by you” in the process, or are you going to retire, with the respect of those who know how hard that might be, so the fractured branch can mend?”

    Just some thoughts, on the eve of the Ides of March.

  40. Real Party in Interest

    No one expects go-over-the-wall bravery. That might require the strength and wisdom of a foolish and young Alice in Wonderland.

    But if 27 people can’t agree who they can select to be their “one voice” here and explain their decisions, they are incompetent by any reasonable measure because they are failing to show they know how to listen and respond (sound familiar?). Practice what you pay people to preach.

  41. JusticeCalifornia

    It’s interesting. You google “Chief Justice Ron George, and this is the first negative hit you get:

    http://www.examiner.com/x-38742-LA-Business-Headlines-Examiner~y2010m3d13-Richard-Fine–California-Chief-Justice-Ronald-George-and-Alleged-Fraud-in-Attorney-Appearances.

    Don’t know anything about the facts in this Examiner online article–does anyone else?

  42. SF Court Observer

    Dear “Real Party”—-

    Are you honestly advancing a question about “27 people agreeing”…? Are you suggesting that any matter considered by the Judicial Council has anything to do with “27 people agreeing”…come-on…..has anyone told you that Santa Claus does not live at the North Pole and the Easter Bunny is equally questionable?—Sorry—but YOU really need to look into how this esteemed body of 27 is convened—-PLEASE—investigate how many of the members are hand selected and appointed by CJ George (let me help you with the answer:14)—-then you ask yourself about agreement among 27?—-please?

  43. Real Party in Interest

    For a statewide boy, either you have a PIO or you have no public voice. How can you expect a court to have a PIO who has to speak for the court, but not expect the same thing of the J.C. or the AOC? If it’s P.C., let him post here. If it’s not him, who is it? L.H.? Post away.

    My God even the Governor and the A.G. have people who can speak for them (no comment on the later, but still, they at least try?). There is no difference now between this blog and one on the Recorder or the Daily Journal’s web pages. The AOC can either choose to have a voice, or be silent. Out of respect for John Henry, this is my last post. The truth will set you free.