Judicial Wars: Justice George Creates AOC Oversight Committee…The Good and the Bad News

I’m a bit behind the curve on this bit of news thanks to life, or the facsimile of one that I live, making me busier than bees in a hive.  But I did want to post a couple thoughts on the news that broke late last week about Justice George announcing that he would appoint an oversight committee to oversee the AOC.  The article in the Recorder said it was a “nod to critics.”  And although the beginning of the article started out fine and dandy in announcing the creation of the committee, it was only until you kept reading that you realized that this “nod” wasn’t much more than a flip of the middle finger as far as I’m concerned.

Why do I feel that way? Because according to the Recorder article the committee will be comprised of a:

…10-member advisory panel [that] would include the vice chairs of three Judicial Council operating committees; the chair and vice chair of the council’s Presiding Judges Committee; one administrative presiding judge from the courts of appeal; one trial court executive officer; one appellate court administrative officer; one member of the State Bar; and a representative of the CJA.

And who gets to select all the members of this newly formed committee? That’s right. King Justice George himself.  This just shows that George and his cronies on the Judicial Council and their lackeys in the AOC have absolutely no qualms in stating that they DO NOT want any form of democracy to creep into how they conduct their business.  George doesn’t want some judge who, God forbid, has an independent mind and thinks for him or herself.  So he’s going to stack this committee with yes people that will do whatever he and the JC bid them to do.  For King Justice George to argue otherwise is simply comical.

But really folks.  Nothing that King Justice George and his royal court do nowadays surprises me anymore.  And if I’m not surprised, dear reader, you shouldn’t be either.

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21 responses to “Judicial Wars: Justice George Creates AOC Oversight Committee…The Good and the Bad News

  1. Obi-Wan Kenobi

    I thought see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil only consisted of three monkeys.

  2. Nathaniel Woodhull

    As Curly would say, “I’m trying to think but nothin’ happens.”
    The fact that HRH is still completely tone deaf is not surprising. Between bad advice from those around him to his complete lack of understanding of what is going on around him, I’m actually starting to feel somewhat sorry for the Chief (HRH).
    Each and every time HRH, Vickery, or Overholt say okay, okay, we hear you, we get it…simply results in their stepping on it even more.
    70 is a pretty good age to retire…maybe HRH should think about that before the recall effort starts to gear up, which it is…

  3. versal-versal

    N Woodhull, Your analysis is outstanding and sadly accurate again. What is incredible is that the Chief insists on controlling who now gets appointed to this latest “Oversight” group. It is not lost on anyone that the current “Oversight” group namely the Judicial Council which is also controlled by the Chief , has failed in their ” oversight”responsibilities. Why then would we expect this new “Oversight” group to do any different ? The problem gets back to the same thing- the Chief trying to control everything within the branch.That control has sadly led to significant employee layoffs, an unwillingness to tolerate dissent, the expenditure of billions on a failed case management system and denial to the public of access to their courts. Based on all that I would agree with Woodhull, the non retention campaign is gearing up and growing by the day

  4. Perhaps this is a good time to suggest a mandatory retirement age for CJ? Or perhaps a peer review by judges/justices in the state would be in order (ala JNE) to make recommendations on wheather the CJ is qualified to retain their position. This recommendation would appear on the ballot for retention.

  5. Hi courtflea: the points you raise are interesting however any change that way would have to apply to all Justices. In my view the vast majority of Justices on the various Court of Appeals and on the Supreme Court do an excellent job so the current retention election structure shouldn’t be changed. Getting JNE involved in the election process is downright scary given their track record . Some states rotate Chief Justices among the Justices of the Supreme Court. That system would have prevented what has developed here. Ultimately my view is that we are better off trying to solve our problems by developing some system for democratizing the Judicial Council . That system would best represent the voices of the local trial courts and the citizens we serve. It would also restore some balance in branch governance so that all power is no longer placed in the hands of one Judge like our current Chief Justice.Wouldn’t it be great to see a Judicial Council that would allow and respect open debate and diverse views ?( No more demeaning Judges like when J Huffman called a fellow Judge a clown ) Wouldn’t it also be great to see a Judicial Council that actually managed the AOC and restored that agency to its proper role of supporting the local trial courts? I could go on and on but the solution resides in having faith in our democratic ideals- thats what made this country great.Lets all take a stand right now and move to democratize the Judicial Council !

  6. Let’s see if I understand this: The “oversight” committee would include the chair of the council’s Presiding Judge Committee, wouldn’t that be Judge Mary Ann O’Malley (hand picked by the chief to serve as the chair of the Presiding Judge Committee) whose “oversight” capabilities have been demonstrated time and again by her willingness to sign her name on whatever the AOC puts in front of her? She has demonstrated her loyalty to the chief and to the AOC most recently by sending out the working group draft, as the chair of the working group, that would unlawfully usurp the authority of Presiding Judges as they confront fiscal disaster right and left. I noticed that CJA gets a place at the table? Woopee! Has that organization actually taken a position on democratizing the judicial council? I think not. By ensuring that CJA has a place on the alleged “oversight” committee, the Chief and the AOC can ensure that CJA is further co-opted. Did CJA take a position on the working group draft?

    Once again, the Alliance and a handful of courageous presiding judges throughout the state have to take time out of their already busy lives as they cope with economic disaster to respond to Judge O’Malley’s draft, which everyone knows she didn’t write , sort of like the article she alleged wrote (at least her name was on it) with the president of some construction union “co-author.”

    How can someone be considered suitable for “oversight” responsibilities when they’ve demonstrated no independent thought? And, when they try, they make foolish decisions, like appearing in her robe while supporting her husband’s election for DA.

    Poor Contra Costa country court employees have lost 20% of their work force to lay offs. What does Judge O’Malley have to say about this? BUILD COURTHOUSES.

    The voters need to enforce a mandatory retirement age for the Chief.

  7. Hi Lando, I was suggesting a JNe like body comprised of judges and justices, not the JNE group as it exists now. i hear ya on that no way. But an internal group of justices and judges would be cool.

  8. The oversight committee will be the usual sycophants: Huffman, McConnell, Horn, Andrews. (Anyone know the last time Fred Horn actually tried a case?)

  9. JusticeCalifornia

    What this boils down to is this:

    First, one man is calling the shots as to how the CA judiciary (“the largest in the Western world”)will be run. I don’t think anyone ever, in their wildest dreams (except maybe Ron George), thought this is the way the CA justice system should work.

    Second, there is virtually no oversight of this man, or his “masterpiece” of a judicial system. This “masterpiece” isn’t working for anyone, except George and the members of his club. It isn’t working for trial court judges, or court employees, or court users, or the legislature, or the executive branch, or last but not least, the taxpayers.

    Third, the CA judicial branch is fractured, and in part diseased. George doesn’t want to let go of his stranglehold control of his $4 billion empire, but he can’t read the handwriting on the wall. So he is surrounding himself with yes-men and yes-women, a variety of whom are tarnished goods, but like all good yes-people they give him the right answer (“yes”) and come through to support his agenda upon request. That comes at a price– and that is the integrity of the branch. “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” comes into play. And this top leadership judicial “policy” is passed down through the ranks. Corruption starts at the top and trickles down.

    May I make a friendly suggestion? Perhaps the Alliance (which is relatively new to the game but has a strong voice) should become allies with others (who are old to the game but also have strong and seasoned voices), who for years have been advocating for judicial accountability and reform.

    In this manner, the public, and the legislature, and the executive branch, in general, and all those others within the court system in particular (victims, litigants, employees, and lawyers) may get what they want–and that is judicial accountability–and the trial courts may get what they want– more control.

    Otherwise, everyone may lose. And I do mean everyone. Because the unprecedented, unfettered, and unaccountable, reign of Ron George and his club, as we all know it, is over, as far as I can tell. And notwithstanding anyone’s calculated machinations, it will not be replicated anytime in the near future.

    People are mad as he**, and they aren’t going to take it anymore. That is why this and related discussions about the CA judicial branch are raging throughout the state (and beyond), in multiple venues, arenas, blogs, and forums.

    And may I just say, thank God and our forefathers for democracy and the freedom of speech. We are in the process of testing how well our system works. . .

  10. Wendy Darling

    No one with a micro smidgen of common sense will believe that this new “oversight committee” – created and controlled by the Chief Justice – has any credibility. It is nothing more than just another layer of self-validation.

    As long as the current Chief Justice is retained in office, there will be no actual, meaningful or legitimate change in the California Judicial Branch and especially at or within the AOC, nor will there be any actual, meaningful or legitimate oversight, transparency or public accountability in the Branch or the AOC.

    As has been previously posted, for many the question of whether or not the current Chief Justice should be retained in the upcoming November election is not only an appropriate issue, it has already been decided in the negative. Given what has come out in the last year regarding the actions, misconduct, questionable ethics, and failed leadership and oversight of the Chief Justice, the Judicial Council, and the AOC, as well as their cover-up and dismissive attitude, should the voters retain the current Chief Justice in November then they will be voting for and accepting a California Judicial Branch infected with corruption.

  11. JusticeCalifornia

    Rumor has it brand new proposed legislation (AB 2475–I haven’t seen the final version yet) is circulating that would eliminate quasi-judicial immunity for certain court appointees. Some of these appointees have pushed it too far, too long, and too egregiously, inflicting terrible harm along the way. The legislature is again being asked to step in to protect the public. . .

    If members of the judicial branch refuse to take prompt action to clean up the corruption in the branch, and embrace and implement meaningful oversight measures, I have absolutely no doubt that the public, and the other two branches of government, will eventually do it for them.

    • Hi JusticeCalifornia:

      Which appointees have pushed what “too far, too long and too egregiously,” and what is the exact nature (and instances) of the “terrible harm” they have inflicted?

      Just looking for facts rather than conclusions so I can understand your comments.

      Tim Fall
      Judge, Yolo Superior Court

      P.S. Here’s what I found on the Assembly website, so you can read the current (as of April 8, 2010) version of AB 2475.

      AB 2475, as amended, Beall. Child welfare services.
      Judicial immunity.
      Existing law grants immunity from civil suit to judges for acts performed in the exercise of their judicial functions. Under the concept of quasi-judicial immunity, this absolute judicial immunity has been extended to persons other than judges if those persons act in a judicial or quasi-judicial capacity, including neutral 3rd
      parties engaged in attempts to settle disputes.

      This bill would provide that the doctrine of
      judicial immunity or quasi-judicial immunity shall not apply to exonerate any 3rd party
      who is engaged in mediation, conciliation, evaluation, or similar dispute resolution efforts under any statute or contract from liability for any act performed within that capacity.

      THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

      SECTION 1. Section 43.94 is added to the
      Civil Code , to read:
      43.94. (a) The doctrine of judicial immunity or quasi-judicial immunity shall not apply to exonerate any third party who is engaged
      in mediation, conciliation, evaluation, or similar dispute resolution efforts under any statute or contract from liability for any act performed within that capacity.
      (b) This section shall apply, but not be limited, to all of the following:
      (1) Mediators, guardians ad litem, therapists, receivers, bankruptcy trustees, and other persons appointed by the courts for their expertise.
      (2) Persons whose work product comes into the judicial process to be used by the court even though they were not court-appointed, such
      as social workers and probation department employees.
      (3) Persons involved in alternative methods of dispute resolution, such as mediators and neutral factfinders, who function apart from
      the courts pursuant to private agreement, including mediators, conciliators, evaluators, and marriage and family therapists.
      (c) This section does not apply to any judicial officer, subordinate judicial officer, or arbitrator.

      • JusticeCalifornia

        Once again, because of two website references, I have been relegated to “awaiting moderation” status. So once again, I will break it down.

        Judge Fall, first see:

        http://www.google.com/search?q=family+court+crisis+youtube&hl=en&rlz=1W1ACGW_enUS355US355&source=univ&tbs=vid:1&tbo=u&ei=UEnOS5yXJIHasQO4hr2vDg&sa=X&oi=video_result_group&ct=title&resnum=1&ved=0CBEQqwQwA

        You can also ask the Center for Judicial Excellence for a copy of the full 45-minute documentary, as the AOC has.

      • JusticeCalifornia

        Next see:

        http://www.batteredmotherscustodyconference.org/letting_children_speak.htm

        and, most especially, ask the Judicial Council for an uncut copy of the taped April 6, 2009 public testimony given to the Elkins Family Task Force, for stories from mothers, fathers, children, professionals, and advocates from all over the state of California. This is not a pro-mother, or pro-father issue. It is a broken family court issue.

        And aren’t there about 1200 comments to the Elkins task force report? Excuse me, 1200?

        Re specific examples, Marin has recommending court mediators who , in violation of Rule of Court 5.210 and 5.215, a) don’t read the custody files or investigate domestic violence issues before recommending supervised visitation for a parent alleging domestic violence and abuse, and b) don’t know what Family Code section 3011 is (although it is the “best interests of the child test” court mediators are statutorily required to apply in making recommendations to the court). Marin also has court-favored minor’s counsel best known for favoring the wealthy parent, or protecting judges, and charging tens of thousands of dollars, while meeting with child-clients less than an hour per year. (one example: a $65,000 bill since 2005, while meeting with the child for a total of about 6 hours.)

        In SF they have a favored evaluator who just couldn’t seem to find the custody evaluation file (??????) in a high-profile Marin custody case–but a copy of that evaluator’s file provided by another professional reveals that the revered SF evaluator flat-out lied in the custody evaluation report in order to make the reporting parent look like that parent was lying about child sexual abuse concerns, and to cover for the accused parent, who gave multiple conflicting stories about the alleged facts to that evaluator. (This is the case mentioned in a prior post involving Ron George, and Ming Chin, and review of all the campaign contributors involving the trial court judges at issue.)

        The stories are basically the same throughout the state, it just so happens some are better documented than others. And that slick Elkins task force recommendation allowing special, non-legislative, “Judicial Council” financial sanctions for attorneys and pro pers , appears designed to make sure this type of documentation is shut down in the future.

        The Elkins task force recommendations ostensibly designed to address the problems are in large part useless, because the family court judges (and their top leadership protectors) who are already supposed to be monitoring the performance of the court appointees, know about the problems, and have done nothing about it but punish those who complain. I wrote a little story about it that I might post. . .

        Some time ago, someone mentioned “appellate reach arounds”. I had no idea what that person meant, but I looked up “reach around” and they do exist. Oh yes.

        Bottom line, Judge Fall: when someone’s child is wrongfully taken from them, he or she will never stop fighting, no matter how many sanctions are slapped on them by oppressive judges. That is why family court victims (mothers, fathers and children) and their advocates have become so organized and powerful and LOUD, statewide and nationwide.

        And mark my words. The original proposed immunity language for AB 2475 was much simpler and aimed at judges. The new language was apparently drafted with input from leg counsel, and was deemed to be less controversial, but it is a bit confusing and needs to be clarified and cleaned up. Kudos to those legislators trying to address the issue.

        But here is the REAL point. If the judicial branch does not take heed, and clean up its act– and instead continues to brutally punish court victims and advocates and others in the system who report court misconduct– CA will most assuredly see a revolution. CA will become a worldwide test case of an unrestrained judicial branch gone wrong– and a shining example of our U.S Constitution in action –And then I do believe that CA may eventually be the first state to eliminate court corruption via elimination of judicial immunity– by initiative, or legislative action.

        If family lawyers and pro per victim/litigants are going to be financially sanctioned for violation of any one of the Judicial Council rules (including Rule 5, set forth on approximately 212 pages, in 10-pt type), then family law judges and court appointees (who are trusted and charged with knowing and following the law) should also be equally financially sanctioned for violations of those rules, right? Tell me why that is wrong.

        Say, maybe our Chief, and the members of the Judicial Council –who plan to adopt the Elkins Task Force recommendations with jokes and giggles– should answer that simple question, and, before gleefully sharpening their retaliatory judicial knives, should consider how they would like to be subject to the same provisions and standards.

        What is good for the goose, is good for the gander.

        This is not aimed at you Judge Fall, it is aimed at the “baddies” on the bench, but the entire branch is going to suffer if they are not reined in.

  12. JusticeCalifornia

    So anyway, I have it on good authority (hearsay, but I believe it is pretty good hearsay) that Judicial Council member/Marin CEO Kim Turner gave orders to destroy certain family court records–after the legislative audit of the Marin family court was announced. I invite Ms. Turner, or anyone else, to confirm or deny.

    I can tell you for a fact that the documents Turner allegedly ordered destroyed are relevant to the legislative auditor’s inquiry.

    The plot thickens.

  13. hey, I don’t know about Marin, but I would love to see more stringent rules for mediators. I think the state agency that grants licenses to these people should get it together and be required to review complaints about mediators. Having PJs and CEOs to deal with complaints against them is not the greatest and mediators should be forwarned that if they screw up really bad, they could lose their license.
    I recognize that it is an incredibly difficult job to be a mediator, but more oversight is needed from an outside source, to diminish the appearance of impropri.eity between the court and their mediators, not to mention having a review by their own peers

  14. JusticeCalifornia

    The biggest mediation issue is there should be no family court “recommending” mediation at all. Mediators meet with families for an hour or two and make sweeping custody recommendations that are, as a general rule, rubber stamped by the judge. This is an improper delegation of judicial power. These recommendations often will affect the families for the entirety of the case, and as long as the child is a minor. The weaknesses in mediation recommendations often only come out via cross-examination and a review of the mediator’s files, to see what was or wasn’t done and what was or wasn’t said. (That is how it was discovered, in one case, that the mediator had read ALL of one parent’s custody pleadings filed in the prior three years, but NONE of the other parent’s custody pleadings filed in the prior three years). In Marin, litigants have had to ask for an evidentiary hearing, subpoena the mediator and provide mediation with a check for $250 in order to meaningfully challenge a bad mediation report. How many people can afford that process, and how many pro pers would have a clue about how to go about it?

    We are talking about custody of children, in cases that often involve allegations of violence or abuse here, not a division of furniture or bank accounts.

    In addition, there should be uniform statewide domestic violence/abuse training for everyone involved in the process, so everyone knows what standards, theories and procedures are being taught. I attended a domestic violence training in Marin once, which was attended by the family court mediators and the judges. The trainer said most domestic violence was “mutual”. I asked whether his definition of “mutual” included a victim trying to push past the perp to get out the door, and he said yes, any touching was considered “mutual”. Those in attendance wouldn’t have known that if that question had not been asked.

    That said, non-recommending mediation can be terrifically helpful for families–the dynamic is entirely different. For example, SF has some wonderful, very talented family court mediators.

  15. JusticeCalifornia

    By the way, here is the original judicial immunity language that was proposed for AB 2475:

    “A judicial officer, court commissioner, or referee shall not be protected by the doctrine of judicial immunity for malicious or corrupt violations of law knowingly and intentionally committed by that judicial officer, court commissioner, or referee while acting in his or her official capacity.”

    I have to say, I think the judicial branch ought to be embracing the idea of professional, neutral Judicial Performance Evaluations, at all levels, so the public and the legislature can see that meaningful efforts are being made to provide judicial accountability and oversight. Again, JPEs were recommended to the Judicial Council by the Council’s own experts. Instead, the CIC is pushing the next phase of its plan at the Judicial Council meeting this Friday–and that is aimed at how to defend against court critics.

    Unclear on the concept. . . .not only does top leadership not have its ear to the ground, it has earplugs in and blinders on.

  16. JusticeCalifornia

    On April 23, 2010, the Judicial Council’s Elkins Family Task Force (comprised largely of family law judges) presented its final family court report and recommendations to the Judicial Council.

    As expected, the task force report does NOT report or address one of the key concerns of members of the public (fathers, mothers, children, lawyers, court professionals, and advocates) who attended task force focus groups and/or came to SF from all over CA to testify on April 6, 2009, shoulder to shoulder, about what is happening in the family courts around the state.

    You don’t often see Father’s Rights advocates, and Mother’s Rights advocates, united. But on April 6, 2009, they, and many others were united with respect to one major concern, and that is that state laws and rules enacted for the protection of families and children often are not being followed by CA Family Court judges, Family Court mediators, and court appointees. Great laws and procedures already exist, they said, but the laws and procedures are simply not being followed.

    Here is today’s new proposed immunity language from AB 2475:

    “43.94. (a) The doctrine of judicial immunity or quasi-judicial immunity shall not apply to exonerate any private third party appointed by the court in an advisory capacity based on his or her professional expertise, who provides a report or findings to the court in a proceeding under the Family Code, with the intention that
    the court act in one way or another based on the report or findings, from liability for acts performed within the scope of his or her
    appointment in violation of law, rules of court, or professional standards.
    (b) This section shall apply to private individuals such as special masters, minor’s counsel, investigators, therapists, evaluators, receivers, bankruptcy trustees, experts, factfinders, and other persons specifically appointed by the court in an advisory
    capacity based on their professional training or expertise.
    (c) This section does not apply to any judicial officer,subordinate judicial officer, arbitrator, or public employee protected by the doctrine of judicial immunity or quasi-judicial immunity at the time this section was enacted.
    (d) During a civil, criminal, or administrative investigation or proceeding in which a court appointee’s alleged misconduct, as described in subdivision (a), is at issue, any statutes of limitation applicable to the underlying, or other related, civil litigation shall be tolled.
    (e) Notwithstanding any other law, any applicable statutes of limitation shall be tolled in an action for recovery of damages for alleged misconduct perpetrated by a court appointee, as described in subdivision (a), while the person seeking relief was a minor.
    (f) The Bureau of State Audits shall include a dedicated compliance official or division whose function it is to review compliance of family courts and public employees with state-mandated family laws and procedures and, notwithstanding Section 10231.5 of the Government Code, to make recommendations to the Legislature, Governor, and Judicial Council, based thereon. Recommendations submitted pursuant to this subdivision shall be submitted in compliance with Section 9795 of the Government Code.”

    This good government bill, which would protect families and children by ensuring compliance with laws and procedures in family courts, is being supported by fathers, mothers, and their advocates, as well as others.

  17. JusticeCalifornia

    Incidentally, while ignoring complaints about violations of laws and procedures by certain trial court judges and court appointees, the Judicial Council’s Elkins Task Force saw fit to go ahead and recommend creation of new non-statutory Judicial Council sanctions for family law attorneys (many of whom work on a pro bono or reduced fee basis, in some of the most egregious custody cases) and pro per litigants (who cannot afford attorneys), which sanctions are inconsistent with current Family Code and Code of Civil Procedure provisions, for violating any of the provisions set forth in the Judicial Council’s 210-page 10-pt type California Rule of Court, Rule 5.

    Given the vast discretionary power these Judicial Council sanctions would give judges to retaliate against those appearing before them (and perhaps complaining about them), and the extraordinarily stringent (and often subjective) standards to which Family Court attorneys and pro per litigants would be held in Family Court if the Elkins Task Force has its way, there is absolutely no justification whatsoever for:

    1) Providing quasi-judicial immunity to private individuals who a) hold themselves out as experts in their field; b) seek court appointments with the intent to influence the court with their expert opinions about life-altering matters such as child custody and safety; c) are often paid tens of thousands of dollars (if not hundreds of thousands of dollars) for providing their services; AND d) violate laws, rules of court, and/or standards of their professions, in the performance of their appointment;

    or

    2) Objecting to executive and/or legislative compliance reviews of family courts, and public employees (such as Family Court Services investigators and mediators that submit reports and recommendations for consideration by the Family Court) that a) are trusted and expected to know and follow laws, rules of court, and the standards of their professions; and b ) may enjoy judicial or quasi-judicial immunity.

    Right?

  18. JusticeCalifornia

    Kudos to our legislators on the Assembly Judiciary Committee, their legal advisors, and most especially Assemblymember Beall, who had the leadership and courage to bring VERY tough and controversial issues to the legislative table today. (And this is what our state needs, in all three branches of government. Courage and leadership. That is the most wonderful attribute of our American heritage.)

    While the AB 2475 elimination of “quasi-judicial immunity” for family court appointees was tabled today, in favor of rapid development of a recommended uniform centralized complaint procedure, everyone has come to the table to discuss the urgent need for effective complaint and oversight procedures in family court. What that will look like remains to be (quickly) determined.

    Meanwhile, in the event certain members of the judicial branch are doing an end-run to avoid meaningful oversight, some are gearing up for a judicial immunity initiative, pointing out that the anonymous CA voting public –many of whom are, or have family members and friends who are, family court victims,–has no allegiance to, or fear of, the judicial branch. Quite the opposite.

    Let’s see what happens. Let’s hope everyone is reasonable, and acutely attuned to the increasingly unified and vocal concerns of the CA mothers, fathers, and children who have been decimated and/or bankrupted by lawbreaking activity within the current family court system– at all levels.

    Regards, JusticeCalifornia