Op-Ed Piece Claims “Deploying CCMS Is Common Sense”

In an op-ed piece published in the Daily Journal yesterday a group of CCMS supporters comprised of judges and court executive officers from San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura continued to bang the drum in support of the AOC/Judicial Council’s contention that CCMS will be the savior of the California superior courts. The group claimed in their letter that currently courts are paying exorbitant amounts of money to run antiquated computer software that does not meet the needs of superior courts throughout the state.

The cost-saving implications for a unitary system are obvious. Together we three courts alone spend almost $2.6 million annually to maintain inefficient, outdated local case management systems. These monies should be better spent in the deployment of CCMS, which promises economies of scale as it is rolled out throughout the state.

However, nowhere in their piece did they even mention that it’s cost California almost $2 billion dollars to save millions. Let me repeat that again in case you missed that. We’re spending BILLIONS to save MILLIONS. Is it any wonder there’s such a large wide swath of the population that doesn’t trust the government to spend its monies wisely? And they didn’t bother to mention that this project is almost ten years old.

And no. Even though the op-ed piece was published on April 1st, I don’t think the citizens of California should be fooled by their arguments. I’m all for a consolidated software program with all courts integrated into it. I’m just not sure it needed to cost billions and take almost longer to complete than the building of the Great Wall of China.

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41 responses to “Op-Ed Piece Claims “Deploying CCMS Is Common Sense”

  1. Why not give us a URL to the op-ed piece so we can read it for ourselves?

  2. JusticeCalifornia

    Well, the state auditors are going to be looking into this CCMS mess, right?

    I wonder how the AOC is going to handle it when the auditors come knocking?

    Here is how Ron George’s handpicked Judicial Council member Kim Turner is handling the state auditors in Marin:

    http://www.marinij.com/marinnews/ci_14803972

  3. To reach the conclusion the costs savings will be “obvious”, wouldn’t one need to know the cost of not only the current system, but also of the new system in terms of both initial deployment and ongoing costs? Just sayin . . .

    To take the position that CCMS is preferrable to courts using old, outdated systems is like a politician campaigning on a tough on crime platform; tough to argue with, but what exactly does it mean.

    No one can reach any reasoned decision regarding the merits of the CCMS project until all relevant factors are considered – one-time costs to the AOC, the courts and justice partners; the availability of funding to cover these expenses; the impact to trial court operations by using funds for CCMS that could otherwise be allocated to the courts for other purposes; an assessment of the trial courts technology needs (not all 58 courts need a new CMS); and the cost and functionality of alternatives to CCMS.

    The project has been going on for more almost 10 years. As far as I know, no one has ever seen a budget for the project which balances projected expenses against available funding.

  4. SF Court Observer

    Ms Turner is depicted as very articulate wanting to know about “the stuff”—-?

    It is also very clear that she seems to feel a need to hide “stuff”

    Is there any reason why she would not want to open the files and be as cooperative as possible to enable a smooth, swift review?

    I’m sure she would be much more comfortable if this “audit” were another blue ribbon hand selected panels comprised of CJ George appointments designed to clear up “misconceptions”….

  5. Nathaniel Woodhull

    It might be a “no brainer” if CCMS existed. This is a complete shell game. The Ventura application is incredibly limited. Orange County is running off their $50mil system, not CCMS.
    This black hole will someday be exposed. Hopefully before all courts are forced to shut their doors for lack of funds…

  6. Nathaniel Woodhull –

    Excellent points.

    All of those courts are running the V3 system. No courts are running V4 because it is not completed.

    None of the courts can speak to the purported benefits of V4 such as “venue transparency” because their current systems do not have that functionality. The benefits they are realizing from V3 are no different than they could see by using a custom off the shelf product.

    The way CCMS V4 is designed is that Orange, LA and San Diego will run it on their own systems. That is probably over half the filings in the state. If V4 is such a robust system, why aren’t three of the largest courts in the state using the architecture it was designed for.

  7. The AOC posted a lengthy document on its Serranus website dated February 22, 2010, consisting of a series of status reports on various “technology initiatives.” Here’s the section on CCMS:

    “California Court Case Management System (CCMS)

    “This report is submitted by Jessica Craven, Senior Business Applications Analyst, Southern Regional Office. Phone: 818-558-3103 or email: jessica.craven@jud.ca.gov

    “CCMS

    “Testing of the CCMS product has begun. There are three primary testing phases: integration, stress, and product acceptance testing. Deloitte Consulting began integration testing for the core product in September 2009, which includes testing 16,800 scripts. These have been mapped to each business process and requirement. AOC staff and court Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) are validating the results, ensuring that the product is thoroughly tested, and preparing for product acceptance testing. Stress testing has been extended by two months as Deloitte continues to improve the application’s performance. Product acceptance testing will begin at the conclusion of integration testing.

    “Other CCMS efforts include standardization and configuration, as well as developing user documentation. The standardization and configuration deliverable was accepted on July 2, 2009. The standardization and configuration working group, comprised of court subject matter experts, continues to define the level of statewide standardization for each configurable area in the application. An executive management team was formed to provide guidance on statewide configurations. Examples of configurable areas include case history, minute codes, security levels, and accounting. The user documentation group is preparing an online system help guide, configuration guide, student and instructor guides along with training presentations and quick reference guides.

    “CCMS will be delivered at the end of 2010. Deployment discussions have begun and include initial preparations with the Superior Courts of San Diego, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo. The early adopter executive leadership meeting has been scheduled with executive leadership of these three early adopter courts.”

    The last paragraph states “CCMS will be delivered at the end of 2010,” which is less than 9 months from now. I’m not sure how that is possible, unless they really mean that only a part of CCMS is to be delivered and then only to the three early adopter courts.

    Tim Fall
    Judge, Yolo Superior Court

  8. San Francisco Whistle

    Richard Branson once offered what he represented was a “surefire way to make millions of dollars in the airline business”

    His surefire plan: “make certain your start-up has billions”—-

    Branson has a sense of humor and laughed as he offered this sage business plan—

    Sadly—there is no laughter in the Daily Journal “wisdom”—-they honestly believe that if we spend sufficient billions–we can save millions. …..and that somehow this makes sense.

  9. There is a Mexican proverb which says,” It is not the fault of the mouse but of the one who offers him the cheese”.

    It does not seem to me that anyone on the Judicial Council asked the following questions before time and money was spent on CCMS: What is it that we want CCMS to do? What will CCMS cost to deploy? What will CCMS cost to maintain? When will CCMS be deployed? If the costs exceed the proposed costs and if the system is not deployed on time what happens?

    The AOC and Deloitte have grabbed this cheese and it is going to cost the taxpayers about 1.7 billion dollars. I have seen no figures as to what it will cost per year to maintain. I have heard a completion date of anywhere from 2010 to 2016.

    One can buy a lot of things for 1.7 billion dollars. Ford sold Jaguar and Land Rover and got a net of 1.7 billion. Ford just sold Volvo for 1.8 billion. The Dubai Towers, the tallest building on Earth, cost 1.5 billion dollars. CBS bought CNET for 1.8 billion dollars. ( None of these transactions cost the California taxpayer one cent).

    Where is the evidence showing that the expenditure of these vast sums has been necessary?

    Is CCMS functional? Is it less complex than the present system in use in various counties? Does CCMS require more or less work for the clerks than the present system you use?

    I have no disagreement that a modern statewide computer system is necessary for the judicial branch. I do question whether or not the taxpayer has received value for the money spent so far and what will be spent in the future.

    • I recently compared CCMS to a Ferrari saying, in effect, that CCMS was too expensive for the needs of the courts.

      What I should have said is that the AOC has paid and is paying Deloitte for a Ferrari which we do not need; Deloitte has delivered a Yugo which does not work.

      If CCMS is so wonderful should we not expect clerks from all over the state to be in support of of it? I have yet to hear from someone who uses the system, as contrasted to those who talk about the system, to give it better than a C+. Why should the taxpayer pay $1,000,000.00 per court for, at best, C+ work?

      JusticeCalifornia in the post of April 2, 2010 has asked the right questions. When will the AOC give an answer to these questions to the taxpayer and to the Legislature?

      • At $1.7 billion, isn’t it $1 million per judge as opposed to per court?

        Tim Fall
        Judge, Yolo Superior Court

  10. JusticeCalifornia

    So let’s just get the answers to these questions:

    1. How much has the CCMS system cost the taxpayers thus far? With hidden costs and all. . .

    2. When will the CCMS system be implemented statewide, in all 58 counties? What is the true drop-dead, published, AOC/Judicial Council “you can count on us “date? (is it really 2010?)

    3. How much will this statewide, fully functional CCMS “you can count on us” 58-county system implementation cost? Total, when all is said and done? (With hidden costs and all. . .)

    4. Does/will the 58-county statewide CCMS system work?

    5. Could others have done it for far less?

    6. Who has made money on this ordeal?

    Just asking. Hey, if it’s all up front, in control, ontime, reasonable, and within budget, that’s cool.

    Just let us all know.

    JC.

    • Didn’t the legislative Accountability and Administrative Review commitee require the AOC to answer these questions at the last hearing? What happened with that?

      • Obi-Wan Kenobi

        They never answered any of the questions or supplied any of the information they were requested to supply.

      • JusticeCalifornia

        Hi observer and Obi

        What are the details about this? Sorry, I don’t know but I am interested, and not surprised. Maybe we need to follow up with the legislature.

        Hmmmm….. It seems neither “Top Leadership” nor those further down the line (read Marin and Sacramento family courts) are giving answers and information the legislature is asking for right now.

        Do I hear those shredding machines?

        Guess what? In Marin, they used to have court reporters at every hearing. Then they said they were going to electronic recording in some courts (there has been a lot of discussion about that on this blog). Then they said they weren’t required to provide either ER or a court reporter in child support cases involving DCSS. This month, in non-DCSS family court, without telling anyone (let me repeat that– without telling anyone), they are starting to go without both. Is it due to budget constraints, or a lack of court reporters? No. Marin Court Executive Officer Kim Turner is apparently telling court reporters to go to their offices, and stay there, instead of reporting. So reporters are getting paid by the court to sit in their offices, while litigants and lawyers –without warning– are left to fend for themselves with respect to making a record. Turner is telling people who ask about this to just get the court minute orders if they want a record of what happened. And for all those interested, this is not just happening in the family court.

        But guess what? This year, it was discovered that certain Marin court clerks are altering the minutes and records, from last year, ostensibly “without the bench officer knowing”, and the Marin presiding judge has defended that practice, saying court clerks are allowed to “correct ” the record!

        So as it stands now, no one can count on getting a true record of what has happened in Marin courts, via ER or court reporter, in any proceeding,unless they know enough to have their own court reporters on call. So a word to the wise: call in advance to see if there will be a court reporter or ER, and promptly get a copy of all minute orders, and, periodically, a fresh copy of each register of actions, in Marin cases–because they are being altered, without notice to anyone, and with the blessing of the presiding judge.

        It is very bizarre. The question is, why? Why is the Marin Court sending court reporters to the office, instead of letting them work?

        The obvious answer is. . . . .they don’t want a correct and memorialized record of what is transpiring.

  11. Judge Maino/Justice California

    Great questions. It does not seem unreasonable to expect answers to them.

    The AOC/JC could take the first step toward restoring their credibiltiy by addressing the issues you raise directly and honestly. While I would be surprised if they did, I would ask that they not tell us what a great system CCMS is. It may be all that, but the real questions concern the use of taxpayer money.

  12. The Daily Journal as the trumpet for the CCMS?

    The Daily Journal is the whole owner of SUSTAIN, maker of software of the same name, which was alleged as the enabling tool of racketeering of the judges of the Los Angeles Superior Court in civil litigations…

    Please notice revised draft submission by Human Rights Alert, a Los Angeles based NGO, where the failure to explicitly state the Local Rules embedded in case management systems, denial of access to court record embedded in case management systems, and features that must be deemed as fraud, in any of the courts that were examined.
    Questions:
    1) The installation of any case management system amounts to major change in court procedures. Were such procedures explicitly defined in Local Rules of Court where CCMS was installed?
    2) Was CCMS subjected to publicly accountable validation (certified functional logic verification)?
    3) Would the public be guaranteed access to court records in CCMS?
    Truly,
    []
    Joseph Zernik, PhD
    Human Rights Alert (HRA), NGO
    http://human-rights-alert.blogspot.com/
    http://www.scribd.com/Human_Rights_Alert

  13. Well, JusticeCalifornia, since you’re asking, an entire workable system could be created in a few months and it would work smoothly. The vendor cost would definitely be under $10 Million. End-users would just need reasonably up to date Windows computers outfitted with standard desktop productivity applications such as Microsoft Office.

    Impossible you say? Not at all. I just got through writing software last week – finishing it up with an extended writing session on the weekend – and the code is vastly more complex than what would be required to handle court case data, which is not very sophisticated data. It is now being beta tested by a potential end user in New York since he was one of those who requested more advanced features than what is found in earlier versions of similar software. Furthermore, the operations to be performed on court case data are mostly highly routine and the software required to execute such operations would be simple to construct. A basic prototype would take about a week or so to construct for the court side and about another week to include interlocking modules for all intended participating justice agencies. After that Alpha 1 level, each part would be built up and continually cross-tested, with other parts being built in parallel. When all features are added, you have the Beta 1 level.

    One of the huge mistakes in the planning of CCMS was the failure to require that any prospective vendor create an actual working prototype before any money changed hands. Then, one or more potential end-users would try it out and decide whether it was going to be any good and actually be usable. I always do that with any new software I write, creating successive alpha builds with one or more alpha level testers as the features are added and tuned up. Both execution and usability are tested at each alpha build level. When features are all in, that’s Beta 1. That level is then tested in the real world. Then comes the decision whether to put it on the market and no money changes hands until that moment.

    In the case of CCMS, that decisional moment would have come when Sacramento attempted to log on and use Beta 1 (actually CCMS was really still Alpha level because all features were not yet present) software located on a remote server at CCTC. The end-users would have turned thumbs down on the progress thus far and the vendor would be back to the drawing board, working on their own dime. Run properly in that aspect, the CCMS project might still have a nightmare approach to creating and handling electronic court records, but at least the taxpayers wouldn’t be out any money. And very little court personnel time would have been spent on developing the system.

    This nightmare will continue until someone in a position to strangle the cash flow (maybe the Legislature) puts a stop to it. Until then, I’m not sure that anyone will simply take a look at what could be done and participate in a demonstration buildup of prototype software.

    I continue to believe – although I realize others may disagree – that CJ George has taken the positions he has taken because he has been given bad advice. If he picked up the phone, called me, arranged for the process I described above, and just sat back and watched, this would all be over very soon. I have no power to bring that about.

  14. Hi Mr. Power:

    I think Justice California’s question was about the cost to date, projected spending and deployment prospects for CCMS as it presently is understood, not what could have been done differently or how it can be changed.

    We know there are a lot of ideas for how it can be done better, and you have provided your own insights on that. This thread was started by discussing the above editorial attempting to defend the current CCMS plan, though. Answers to questions such as that raised by Justice California will go a long way to moving us in the right direction as a branch.

    Tim Fall
    Judge, Yolo Superior Court

  15. Judge Fall, the best information on amounts expended was formerly up on the court system Web site but has now disappeared. It was $462+ Million through 6/30/09. And it’s about $8 Million per month since then. That’s the most accurate figures I heard.

    Deployment prospects for CCMS are dismal because their basic setup isn’t going to work, as the Sacramento County experience demonstrated. They noted 2016 as the full deployment date a little while ago. Just before that I heard 2014, then slightly earlier it was 2013. That is of course absurd because once a system is designed, deployment should take only a very short time.

    The major difficulty with any cost projections is that the cost of CCMS is open-ended because they are chasing a rainbow. To understand that rainbow chasing problem, ask Deloitte about their situation in Colorado. The only logical way to prevent such situations is to require the working prototype, then set the cost, then just do it.

  16. Interesting: did you know that CCMS is right up there with the expenses the FBI has incurred thusfar for developing a new computer system? Yep, they have spent billions too and their system is not working yet either….I wonder if they use the same vendor as the AOC uses for CCMS? 🙂

    • The US Department of Justice website says the FBI budget for 2010 is $7.8 billion. An April 4, 2010, article on the FBI information and investigative case management system (here) says the system was supposed to have cost $425 million and be fully ready by December 2009. It has not yet been deployed and the FBI reports it will come in over budget.

      According to the article, an investigation by the Office of Inspector General found: “As of March 2010, the FBI does not have official cost or schedule estimates for completing Sentinel. The remaining budget, schedule, and work to be performed on Sentinel are currently being renegotiated between the FBI and Lockheed Martin [the vendor]. While the FBI does not yet have official estimates, FBI officials have acknowledged that the project will cost more than its latest revised estimate of $451 million and will likely not be completed until 2011.”

      The OIG report also states: “After more than 3 years and $334 million expended on the development and maintenance of Sentinel, the cost to Sentinel is rising, the completion of Sentinel has been repeatedly delayed, and the FBI does not have a current schedule or cost estimate for completing the project.”

      We should learn from those type of reports. I don’t mind a computer system that will integrate the Judicial Branch. But it should be based on a business plan that we can understand, and should be pursued only when we have enough money to keep our core function operational: open and fully staffed courthouses.

      As an elected member of the Judicial Branch, that core function is non-negotiable and non-fungible in my book.

      Tim Fall
      Judge, Yolo Superior Court

  17. So, quick quiz for all those that think they’re up to speed on computer project disasters and would have known better. Which big disaster in California was run by Lockheed Martin? Hint: It was a while back but it was big then. They had an office in an office building in the North Natomas area. Right across the hall from an office set up temporarily for the state agency with three letters in their acronym, that hired LMIMS. And nope, not DMV.

    The FBI couldn’t get on the Internet and figure out that Lockheed Martin IMS was a potential problem? And these guys are investigators? I could have given them an earful of valuable info the instant I heard the name Lockheed Martin. And no, that’s not the airplane folks part. It’s Lockheed Martin IMS.

  18. Yet again, with the focus entirely on the cost, you forget the true issue:
    WOULD THE SYSTEM COMPLY WITH THE LAW?

    Sustain, the system currently employed at the LA Superior Court, must be deemed the enabling tool of racketeering.
    ~~jz

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      If you wouldn’t mind, this is your second post alleging that sustain is an enabling tool of racketeering. Can you cite a few case examples of how a software program acts as an enabling tool of racketeering?

  19. TooBigToFail

    I may have missed it, but has anyone seen the CCMS report that, I believe, was to be published by the Office of the CIO by the end of March?

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      Interestingly, Takai was just offered a position with the Obama Administration as the Pentagon CIO and took the job. I wonder if that audit will ever see the light of day before she leaves.

      • Obi-Wan Kenobi

        The White House

        Office of the Press Secretary

        For Immediate Release March 29, 2010 President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts, 3/29/10
        WASHINGTON – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key administration posts:

        •Teresa Takai, Assistant Secretary (Networks and Information Integration), Department of Defense
        •S. Leslie Ireland, Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis, Department of the Treasury
        President Obama also announced his intent to appoint Felicity Hannay to serve as U.S. Commissioner on the Upper Colorado River Commission. Her bio is below.

        President Obama said, “It gives me great confidence that such talented individuals have chosen to join my administration as we confront the challenges facing our nation. I look forward to working with them for years to come.”

        President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key administration posts:

        Teresa Takai, Nominee for Assistant Secretary (Networks and Information Integration), Department of Defense
        Since December 2007, Teri Takai has served as Chief Information Officer for the State of California. As a member of the Governor’s cabinet, she advises him on the strategic management and direction of information technology resources as the state works to modernize and transform the way California does business with its citizens. Prior to her appointment in California, Takai served as Director of the Michigan Department of Information Technology (MDIT) since 2003, where she also served as the state’s Chief Information Officer. In this position, she restructured and consolidated Michigan’s resources by merging the state’s information technology into one centralized department to service 19 agencies and over 1,700 employees. Additionally, during her tenure at the MDIT, Takai led the state to being ranked number one four years in a row in digital government by the Center for Digital Government. Before serving in state government, Takai worked for the Ford Motor Company for 30 years, where she led the development of the company’s information technology strategic plan. She also held positions in technology at EDS and Federal-Mogul Corporation. In 2005, Takai was named “Public Official of the Year” by Governing magazine. She is Past-President of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers and currently serves as Practitioner Chair of the Harvard Policy Group on Network-Enabled Services and Government. Takai earned a Master of Arts degree in management and a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics from the University of Michigan.

      • Obi-Wan Kenobi

        And now you know how carefully orchestrated “the largest threat to democracy” that President Eisenhower warned us of can work.

        The military industrial complex, whom Deloitte, AGS and Jacobs are all a part of.

      • In spite of all this glowing praise for Ms. Takai, in light of current problems in California – which she obviously didn’t solve – did any ever bother to ask certain simple, direct questions?

        To anyone who claims they understand how to handle the CCMS situation, I would start with some really basic ones like:

        And Mr/Ms. xxxx, would you please show us one or more examples of complex software that you personally wrote in its entirety within the last two years. And we would like to try it out hands-on, thank you.

  20. Wendy Darling

    For those of you with subscription access to The Recorder, published today, Wednesday, April 7th, 2010:

    Sacto Court says New System Doesn’t Compute:
    Court officials held a press conference Tuesday to rail at the early version of the AOC’s $1 billion computer upgrade, saying it’s prone to costly failures. http://www.law.com

    • For those of you who are curious as to what the Sacramento County Superior Court leadership said in its CCMS briefing conducted on April 6, 2010, I have placed the briefing slides up on the Internet. Go to http://www.rcpsoftware.com/govsoft.html and scroll down the page about half way to the link to the Sacramento presentation.
      The reaction of one other news media person was “Unbelievable!”

  21. JusticeCalifornia

    Mr. Power, thank you for posting the Sacramento CCMS briefing slides. Shocking, and very informative. I have a better understanding of our tax dollars at work, and the local judges’ concerns. . .

    So who exactly was and is the top dog making the decisions about CCMS, anyway? And who actually signed off on the one-year warranty? And who decides how much to bill each county for the “privilege” of using CCMS, and based on what criteria? And if CCMS is implemented in all 58 counties, could a system failure affect all 58 counties at once? And if it is implemented statewide, will counties have the ability to have their own techs fix glitches, or will they have to call in an AOC -approved contractor?

  22. I took the slides down now but anyone can get a copy from Ginger Sylvester at the Sacramento Superior Court.

    JusticeCalifornia, as to your question about whether a system could affect all 58 counties at once, the answer is yes. And if law enforcement agencies put their data up there too, it would affect all of them as well.

    As to the ability to fix tech glitches, no one can actually “fix” a coding error unless they have access to the source code.

  23. Judge Horan (or anyone from the bench):

    Does this read with your understanding of the hierarchy in the judicial branch, if one is looking at such a hierarchy from a California constitutional perspective?

    – Chief Justice, Chair of the Judicial Council

    – Judicial Council (the Administrative Director serves at the pleasure of the Judicial Council; thus, neither he nor any of his employees have any say over the courts, unless such powers are delegated away by the Council itself)

    – California Supreme Court

    – Courts of Appeal

    – Trial Courts

    – AOC (not mentioned in Article VI, but “Serving the courts for the benefit of all Californians”)

    For purposes of this analysis, I am leaving out entities like the State Bar, CJP, Habeaus Resource Center ….

    I don’t know about the order of one and two. Because an appointed government body that votes on decisions needs to have a removal mechanism that any member can access, the Council may actually be higher than the Chief.

    But does anyone believe the AOC falls at a different level? The AOC is not mentioned in the California constitution, and its mission is that it serves the courts.

  24. JusticeCalifornia

    IMHO, it might be very helpful for the Alliance to prepare a short (up to 3-page) summary about what has happened with CCMS so far, and attach a copy of the Sacramento briefing slides, it this hasn’t been done already. This should be provided to all members of the legislature on the judiciary and budget committees. It should also be provided to the press.

    The summary could conclude with a statement about why democratization of the judicial council is a necessity, not a luxury.

    And, also IMHO, if it hasn’t already done so, the alliance should seriously consider getting a professional consultant to help get its message out. There is a lot of work to be done this year — it is a year of amazing possibilities. A good and very experienced consultant, with a vast network of contacts interested in judicial reform, met a Fresno alliance member at the JLAC vote.

    Just some thoughts. . .

  25. Wendy Darling

    Published today, April 12th, in the Sacramento Bee and also posted on the Sacramento Bee website, by Robert Lewis, the latest on the brewing budget/funding battle over CCMS:

    California Court Officials, Judges Spar Over Costly Computer System. http://www.sacbee.com

  26. Justice California, court reporters are not required in DCCA matters and there are other court proceedings were court reporters are not required as well. It is not uncommon in courts for ER to be used in these hearings. When it is a requirement to use court reporters is clearly outlined in statute.

    As to courtroom clerks changing minute orders, this is a common practice when a clerk has made a mistake in the minutes. To correct the problem, a clerk prepares a “nunc pro tunc” order. Perhaps that was what the judge was supporting.

    So no matter what you think of court reporters, ER or CEO Kim Turner, what is going on in Marin, as you state, is nothing other than standard business practice in many courts. If anything is going on beyond that, I can’t speak to it.

    • JusticeCalifornia

      courtflea, I understand that what is suddenly going on in Marin with respect to having court reporters, may be standard practice elsewhere. But it has never been standard practice in Marin. And if a) there had been an announcement or discussion about it or b) no reporters were available, that would be one thing. But to send available reporters to their offices, repeatedly, instead of putting them in the courtroom, makes no sense at all, and seems to be a terrible waste of resources, doesn’t it?

      And the changing of the court minute order was done seven months after the hearing in question, without notice to anyone, or notation in the record, and ostensibly, without the knowledge of the bench officer who made the order. It fixed a serious due process/notice problem that had been raised in a trial, and the “fix” did not match the transcript from the hearing in question.

      A lawyer got a copy of the correct minute order (from a hearing last summer), and then a new version suddenly showed up.

      At this point, no one reading the court record (register or minutes) would ever know what the original register of action and minute order said, or what the “fix” was.

      The presiding judge was asked to investigate and answer the “who what where when how and why ” questions about the change, and he didn’t answer any of them– he simply said court clerks can “correct” the record.

      The implications of the change are enormous. In how many cases has it happened,and in how many more will it happen? The registers are relied upon by litigants, lawyers, and the court of appeal to correctly reflect what happened, and for a court clerk (if indeed it was the court clerk) to be able to unilaterally go in to the court computer system, change something without notice or notation, or anyone’s knowledge means no one can rely upon the Marin court records. Do you disagree?

      Altering court records improperly is a violation of Govt. Code 6200 and is such a serious matter it gets you two or more years in prison.

      The fact that these secret alterations are going on in the middle of a legislative audit is even more troubling.

  27. Obi-Wan Kenobi

    I can’t address what is a standard business practice among the courts might be.

    When you’re having questionable assignments to a clique of the favored and people begin to connect the dots and asked questions, it doesn’t look good to make the decision that there will no longer be any official record of these transactions and assignments, no matter how much it is a “standard practice” elsewhere.