Judicial Wars: Judicial Council to LA Superior Court…You Ain’t Gettin’ A Dime

It seems the Judicial Council is DETERMINED to protect all of the monies for it’s pet court construction fund even if it means telling the largest court system in the country to go ahead an lay off even more court employees. An article in yesterday’s Daily Journal detailed what happened when the JC took up the proposal by LA Superior to release funds from the court construction in order to help LA Superior prevent more layoffs. And as can be expected, a majority of the council members voted to deny LA’s request basically sealing the fate of hundreds of LA Superior employees unless the Legislature steps in.

In heated discussions prior to the 15-to-2 vote, three Los Angeles judges who sit on the council took issue with a report by the Administrative Office of the Courts finding the Los Angeles court had overestimated the number of employees it needed to lay off to deal with its budget shortfall.

Council member Lee Smalley Edmon said her court’s projections, which include the need to let 500 employees go in the next fiscal year, were correct and “based on our actual experience.” She objected to “unnecessary second guessing.” “I don’t think it’s helpful to the cause of the judicial branch,” Edmon said. “The AOC isn’t in the trenches every day.”

And the AOC’s response to LA’s budget projections? Thou doth protest too much basically.

Stephen Nash, finance director for the AOC, told council members he believes the Los Angeles court underestimated the savings it could achieve through attrition and the layoffs it has already implemented.

According to Nash’s calculations, the court should have enough reserves at the end of fiscal 2012-13, and should not have to resort to a second wave of planned layoffs of 500 employees. Nash said that using the construction funding for operations could “imperil the timing and success” of many of the courthouse projects and that court officials are working hard to find other solutions. “We believe the creativity needs to continue,” he said.

Instead of dipping into the court construction fund, the AOC will now work to ask the Legislature to cough up more funds to cover the deficits faced by the courts.

I’m sorry, but when it comes to who do I believe in terms of budget numbers, and if I’m going to have to choose between people who work in the court and know what they’re dealing with and a group of administrators, some of whom have NO idea of the day-to-day operations of running a court, I’m going to choose the former.

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8 responses to “Judicial Wars: Judicial Council to LA Superior Court…You Ain’t Gettin’ A Dime

  1. This was an orchestrated AOC show to attempt to put LASC in its place. Bill Vickrey thought that if he did his own audit and put Steve Nash out front, other courts would refrain from pointing out their dire conditions. Unfortunately for him and the Chief, it failed

    What did it prove? That the AOC is completely without any ideas of how to get out of the current fiscal problem. The LA Court did its analysis, presented it the AOC and in return got the promise to “look under every rock” for more money. This is not a plan. It is nothing more than an attempt to buy time and hope for salvation.

    If we were to believe the AOC, the LA Court court fired over 300 employees with another 500 more to come without any justification. Three problems with that. First, the AOC numbers just don’t add up and are based not on actual number but on their best guess. LA’s numbers are actuals. Second, if the AOC were correct, the unions would be all over the LA Court. They are not. They are however all over the AOC calling them liars. Third and finally, you would have to believe that the LA Court are cynical, cold hearted and unethical bastards who are only firing their employees to make a political point. Even if you hate LA and believe that to be the case, points one and two above refute that.

    The AOC and the Judicial Council have shown that they have no aptitude for leadership and are the biggest threat to the Judiciary in this state. This last show demonstrates that. People need to recognize it for what it was.

  2. I think it is important to keep several things in mind when considering the issue of LA’s request:

    1. LA recognized other courts would be facing similar operating deficits and would require help as well. While LA requested a sum certain, $47 million, it also suggested that SB 1407 funds be made available to other courts as well. This was not a “money grab” by LA.

    2. The JC has now opened the door for LA to go directly to the legislature and lobby for use of these funds. LA did what it was supposed to do and took this issue to the JC. Instead of focusing on the larger policy issue of developing a plan and strategy to address the fiscal crisis, the AOC analyzes LA’s plan and suggests that LA has some ulterior motives for overstating the extent of the problem. The JC has now completely alientated LA and Judges McCoy and Edmon will be completely justified when they go directly to the legislative leaders to urge use of this money. Not only will the AOC have to fight the unions, they will now have to fight the judges of LA County in the legislature. Aren’t you supposed to keep your friends close and your enemies closer?

    3. Why is the legislature going to spend a lot of time and effort working with the AOC “looking under every stone” when there is a huge pile of money (SB 1407) sitting right in front of them? And the unions and judges from LA are pointing right to it. Neither the governor nor the legislature want to use General Fund money to support the judicial branch if they can avoid it and there are other sources of funding available – SB 1407, TCIF, Mod Fund, TCTF and local reserves. These stones are within arm’s reach and will be the ones that get turned over.

    4. The Chief Information Officer’s recommendations re: the success of CCMS hinge upon, among other things, getting complete buy in from all of the trial courts and getting all courts including, LA, Orange and Sand Diego, to host CCMS at the AOC’s tech center and not locally. How much cooperation do you think the AOC is going to get from LA on these issues now?

    5. When it comes to the issue of credibility with the legislature and the public, LA and Judge McCoy are miles ahead of the AOC/JC. LA has a multi-year plan to address the crisis based on real-world numbers. The AOC/JC has no plan.

    LA is willing to delay construction of courthouses in its county to get through the crisis. The AOC/JC has made it clear that they will continue with CCMS and courthouse construction regardless of the fact 22 courts anticipate they will be bankrupt within two years.

    LA made the hard choice to lay off employees and cut services. The AOC bureauraracy continues to grow and expend despite the reductions to the trial courts.

  3. The Daily Journal article attributed this analysis to the AOC: “Rather than transfer the funds, the Judicial Council approved the recommendation by AOC staff to ask legislators to provide other state funds to help ailing courts.” Does branch leadership have some sort of inside scoop on the Legislature and Governor giving the Judicial Branch a pile of money in the next budget? If so, please let the rest of us in on the secret.

    It seems like the priority would be to take what money we have and fund the day to day operations, then ask the legislators to provide money to back up our long term projects – particularly CCMS, which may very well be worthwhile but not as important as keeping the courts open. That would show the Legislature our commitment to getting the people’s work done here in our branch. If the money comes through, the projects continue. If it doesn’t, then at least we have allocated what funds we do have to keeping the courts running.

    I can’t understand why some in this branch, elected officials and staff, fail to see that the constitutional priority of the judiciary is doing judge stuff and everything else is secondary. Everything.

    • I commend to everyone the editorial written by Mr. Roger Grace, Los Angeles Metropolitan News, a Los Angeles Legal newspaper. Go to the link below and scroll way down to the “Viewpoint” section and you will see an editorial by the newspaper’s owner titled “Presiding Judge “Tim” McCoy Is On the Campaign Stump For His Court”. Great piece that tells it like it is, and concludes that Judge McCoy has it exactly right, and the AOC and council got it exactly wrong.

      I listened to most of the council meeting, and was not surprised at anything I heard. The bright spot was the spirited, logical, and honest defense of LA’s position set forth by Judge Lee Edmon, our APJ who is a council member. She, and Judge David Wesley, also from LA, cast the only votes against the Chief/AOC position. Judges throughout the system, not just in LA, stood and cheered Judge Edmonds’s remarks.
      All I can say is “Bravo” to the two dissenters, and to Judge McCoy.

      Hope you all check out the article and enjoy it as much as I did.

      Chuck Horan

      See: http://www.metnews.com/

  4. Wendy Darling

    Bill Vickrey, Ronald Overholt, and the rest of the failed AOC leadership serve at the pleasure of the Chief Justice. Apparently, whatever they are doing pleases the Chief Justice just fine because it is abuntantly clear that the Chief Justice has done, and is doing, nothing to stop it or change it.

    The Chief Justice also controls the Judicial Council.

    Nothing is going to change at the AOC or with the Judicial Council or with the control, administration, and decision making of the Judicial Branch as long as Ronald George is the Chief Justice of the Judicial Branch. Nothing.

    If those who know what is going on in the AOC, the Council, the Judicial Branch, as well as the people of the State of California. want change in the AOC, the Council, and the Judicial Branch, the only way that is going happen is for Ronald George to not be retained as the Chief Justice in November.

    And Judge Fall, the Chief Justice, the Judicial Council, and the AOC, really don’t care about keeping the courts open or about alienating the court in LA, or alienating judges, because they know that ultimately they control the money that goes to the trial courts. And in terms of “constitutional priority”, who among us hasn’t figured out yet that the Chief Justice’s, the Judicial Council’s, and the AOC’s priorities are completely screwed up.

    Nothing new here; it’s all still SNAFU.

    • JusticeCalifornia

      Exactly, precisely, right.

      It appears we will have to vote Ron George out, and vote in someone who will, quite simply, follow the law, and encourage, or—-if necessary, and to the extent legally possible—-force others within his or her purview, to follow the law. What a concept.

      Main Entry: pur·view
      Pronunciation: \ˈpər-ˌvyü\
      Function: noun
      Etymology: Middle English purveu, from Anglo-French purveu est it is provided (opening phrase of a statute)
      Date: 15th century
      1 a : the body or enacting part of a statute b : the limit, purpose, or scope of a statute
      2 : the range or limit of authority, competence, responsibility, concern, or intention
      3 : range of vision, understanding, or cognizance

      That is what is so wonderful about the law in the United States. . . . . .it is (and should be) generally designed and enacted to be non-partisan, and pure, and protective of the public all three branches serve.

  5. Here is a rock the AOC can turn over for additional funding: stop paying for expensive administrators, consultants, contractors, extra help, computer systems and adding employees and use that funding to assist the trial courts

  6. I think a growing disconnect is emerging (between the AOC and the courts), and the Chief Justice is either in denial or not interested in protecting the Administrative Director and key members of his team.

    Kenneth Kann, Ernesto Fuentes, Dianne Bolotte and other key AOC personnel have been sued in both state and federal court for any number of the following: improper or illegal employment practices, including coercive interference with exercise of rights, and conspiracy.

    This is all a matter of public record, and if the U.S. Department of Justice was up to speed on the AOC’s practices, they would have fined the AOC years ago for multiple and serious civil rights violations. If any of those named defendants want to go on record in the press and defend their actions, in any past or pending litigation, please, be my guest.