LA Mayor Villaraigosa: Redirect Court Construction Funds

Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge Charles McCoy got a big boost of support today for his plan of redirecting court construction funds back to courts for day-to-day operations of trial courts with an opinion piece printed in this morning’s Daily Journal written by Los Angles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.  Mayor Villaraigosa lays out the all the unfortunate details we’ve come to understand of the crisis faced by Los Angeles Superior Court.  Forced closures of nine courthouses resulting in 180 closed courtrooms and planned layoffs of 1,800 court employees resulting in a 34% deduction of the court workforce.

The mayor rightly points out that if the doomsday scenario described above pans out, the citizens of Los Angeles will pay the ultimate price.

And because more and more lawsuits are being filed, including many related to the current economic crisis, the courts will rapidly clog up, and long delays extending out not just months, but years, will occur. Justice will not only be delayed; in many cases it will be effectively denied.

And then Mayor Villaraigosa comes out swinging strong for redirecting court construction funds.

This tragedy need not happen. If we set priorities straight, and make access to justice a top priority, as it must always be, we can avoid this.

About $83 million is presently collected in Los Angeles ($280 million statewide) from certain fees and fines created to support future new state courthouse construction under SB 1407, which authorizes the future sale of $5 billion in construction revenue bonds. The Governor and Legislature should seriously consider temporarily redirecting all or part of that revenue stream to keep our existing courtrooms operating. All options should be considered.

It doesn’t make sense to urgently build new courthouses when courtrooms are being closed for lack of adequate funding. If the court’s workforce is cut 34 percent for lack of funding, who will run the new courthouses when they are eventually built? Just as families and businesses across the country have delayed plans for remodeling or new construction, our courts should do the same. Once we are on the other side of the current recession, the income stream can be put back to work on construction projects and the bonds sold.

I urge the Governor and Legislature to seriously consider temporarily redirecting all or part of the courthouse construction revenue stream to keep our current courtrooms operational. This will not only save nearly 1,400 jobs here in Los Angeles, it would also serve the greater good of Angelenos and preserve justice in our city. Once we are on the other side of the current recession, the income stream can be put back to work on the construction projects and bonds sold.

New and renovated courthouses are important, but justice comes first.

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79 responses to “LA Mayor Villaraigosa: Redirect Court Construction Funds

  1. Judge McCoy and the LA Superior Court appear to be way ahead of the AOC/JC in terms of presenting their case to the public and legislature.

    The AOC/JC is going to find it difficult to argue for GF money to keeps courts open when they are sitting on $280 million and not all of it is needed for construction. The AOC/JC position will be a tough sell in the legislature and they will only end up losing more credibility, particularly in light of the support LA will receive from the Bar Association, the DA, the trial lawyers, insurance defense bar, the unions, etc.

    I think the better strategy would be a preemptive one where the AOC sits down with Judge McCoy and the rest of the Courts and develop a three-year plan to fund the courts at some minimal level until all the bonds are issued and GF money to the branch is restored. There has to be a beneift of going to the legislature with a reality-based plan that has the support of all of the stakeholders. I know the AOC doesn’t want to show “all of its cards”, but until they do compromise within the branch is impossible and despite their best efforts, the branch will not be speaking with “one voice”. Besides, I am pretty sure the “cards” in their hand will not surprise any of the other players.

  2. WiseEmployee

    I think it is safe to assume the Legislature has a good sense of what is in those cards the AOC is holding. Thing is that given that alot of this information is now publicly accessible it makes no sense for the AOC to pretend as though there is no facility money available. Why wait for the Legislature to force the money out of the AOC when the Chief can instead play hero and direct his staff to come forward with enough facilities money to help the courts? Much of the criticism would end. Talk about taking the wind out of the sails of the opposition. The chief could claim that he lead the way to save the courts during this economic crisis instead of being forced by the Legislature to do the right thing. The strategy the AOC and the JC has taken makes no sense in either practical or political terms. This is why their strategy is a guaranteed loser on every level.

  3. JusticeCalifornia

    I also attended last Friday’s Judicial Council meeting.

    One takeaway from the LA discussion was this: the AOC clearly spent an amazing amount of time, money and energy analyzing LA’s claims about how much LA stood to save from layoffs –which begs the question– why isn’t the AOC putting the same amazing amount of time, money and energy into looking at its own readily available books and records and contracts, and answering simple questions that the AOC has been asked (by just about everybody) about CCMS, and the court construction funds?

    The very interesting question that kept coming up during the JC discussion was this: what is the Judicial Council’s, AOC’s and chief’s long range plan here?

    There was no answer, but there were noticeable signs of a great big game of “chicken”. The Judicial Council does not want to tap into the court construction funds, because “then the legislature really won’t give us any money”, or words to that effect. (P.S. Ron George again mentioned the construction jobs.) Like the legislature won’t notice (as everyone else has) top leadership is, indeed, sitting on a pile of money for shiny brand new courthouses, when trusty old courthouses conducting public business are closing its doors to the public.

    Here is what I wonder. When times were good, it might have sounded swell to have a “Mercedes” approach to spending– a bunch of shiny new expensive courthouses, and a “state of the art” statewide computer system that is going to cost about $1 million per judge. Now that times are not so swell, and courts are closing, is anyone up there at the top looking at what a nice “Ford” approach might look like? What if the construction projects were reviewed, and prioritized, such that truly necessary fixes and upgrades are done, but the shiny new expensive courthouses are left for another day?

    And re the CCMS project, query–by the time it is fully implemented, assuming it ever is–won’t it be outdated? Won’t there be something newer, cheaper, faster, easier? (I know Mr. Power says there already is, and I am not an IT person so I cannot assess that claim.)

    Given that the JC was talking about 22 courts going belly up, it would seem ALL available funds should be disclosed, and ALL options should be considered and put on the table. And it also seems that more people should be invited to sit at the table, and vote.

    One more point, involving a very fair question: Are LA judges still receiving over $45,000 per year each from LA county in extra perks (which payments were deemed illegal by an appellate court, but which were vigorously protected by the Judicial Council), while 70-year old LA attorney Richard Fine has been disbarred, and has been sitting in solitary confinement in an LA County jail since March, 2009 (14 months), as an apparent judicial payback for objecting to those payments? (Fine reportedly said LA judges cannot hear cases involving LA County, while they are receiving over $45,000 per year in extra benefits/payments from LA County. And, by the way, no other CA county comes close to providing this level of “extra” benefits for their judges.)
    Judges cannot complain about oppressive behavior (at the highest levels) while engaging in oppressive behavior (at any level.) See: http://www.judicialwatch.org/documents/2008/sturgeon-v-losangeles-ruling.pdf.

    And, while we are having these financial discussions, how much money have CA taxpayers been billed for Mr. Fine’s incarceration?

    I don’t know, and have never spoken with Mr. Fine. However, whatever issues the LA court has with Mr. Fine for his challenge of their authority, disbarment and 14 months incarceration in solitary confinement is unconscionable. Excuse me? Loss of professional status and earning ability , and 14 months of incarceration in solitary confinement with no end in sight? In the USA? For challenging an LA judge’s authority based on that judge’s receipt of illegal payments?

    I strongly suggest that Mr. Fine be released. Very soon. Judicial retaliation is not pretty, or acceptable, at any level, or under any circumstances. Does anyone disagree?

  4. Justice California:

    Thank you.

    If Judge McCoy, or for that matter, anyone else from the LA court wants to have any credibility with the Legislature, Mayor of LA, and the rest of the state, they will release Mr. Fine immediately.

    What kind of message does it send to the public that the California courts, in 2010, are willing to keep a 70-year old man, an officer of the court, in jail for over a year? Celebrities who drive drunk are routinely released from jail service withing 24 hours due to overcrowding. As long as this kind of injustice continues, and Mr. Fine is held as a political prisoner, LA will have not have any credibility as a leader or some kind fo different tyrant than the AOC or the Judicial Council. If a judge from LA wants to defend the imprisonment of Mr. Fine for over a year, either in this forum or in the press, please, be my guest.

    • Hi Ray O’Light:

      You suggested, “If a judge from LA wants to defend the imprisonment of Mr. Fine for over a year, either in this forum or in the press, please, be my guest.”

      Canon 3B(9) of the California Code of Judicial Ethics provides: “A judge shall not make any public comment about a pending or impending proceeding in any court … .”

      Tim Fall
      Judge, Yolo Superior Court

      • JusticeCalifornia

        Hi Judge Fall

        You are right, of course.

        But beyond judges commenting on the Fine case, the entire judicial branch should be concerned about this case. I wonder, nationwide, how many people have been punished as Mr. Fine has been, for what he has allegedly done? And I wonder, how many individual judges have sentenced anyone to suffer what Mr. Fine has suffered, for what he has allegedly done? And I wonder, how many individual judges have seen MUCH worse behavior get no penalty, or a light slap on the wrist? And I wonder, how many court critics get MUCH worse treatment than those who “go along with the program”?

        These are the questions all members of the CA judicial branch should be asking, every night as they go to sleep with their families, and every morning as they wake up with their families, as Mr. Fine spends each grueling day in solitary confinement, in the Los Angeles jail.

        And again, I don’t know him, but I most assuredly do know judicial retaliation, and cruel and unusual punishment when I see it. I have seen it a lot in the Marin Court, when litigants and their advocates have complained about the rampant corruption there, over the past couple of decades.

        The Alliance cannot expect or hope for continued support, if it closes its eyes to court misconduct, wherever and whatever level it takes place. It is not a comfortable subject, but everything is on the table right now.

        The CA court system is going to implode if all concerned don’t sit down, and get reasonable, and look at uncomfortable issues, because the CA public (and it is a very big public) simply isn’t going to accept the status quo anymore.

        I am increasingly impressed and amazed at the quality, experience, intelligence, focus, and determination of those seeking judicial reform right now.

        Do not underestimate the public. Collaboration to achieve mutual goals is key.

  5. I appreciate the citation Judge Fall, but sadly, we are in agreement. If California judges cannot speak freely to discuss, and. oh, hypothetically, assert and defend Mr. Fine’s right to freedom, then who can?

    I plan to find out.

    Have a good night.

  6. This deserves its own thread:

    http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/presscenter/newsreleases/NR19-10.PDF

    Judge Friedman is now a private judge employed by JAMS. That the Chief Justice and the AOC Office of Communications/PIO would leave this fact out of an official California state agency press release is … well … morally and ethically bankrupt.

  7. Friedman was placed on the JC because the Chief needs all the connection he can get in the Legislature right now. His stock is so low there that he reaching for anyone he thinks can give him some voice with them, e. g., Joe Dunn, Terry Friedman, etc. Terry and Joe have been doing the Chief’s bidding for years.

    Oh, in case anyone missed the importance of the LA Mayor’s editorial (which the AOC mouthpiece responded to the next day with stong disagreement), the Speaker in the Assembly is the Mayor’s cousin. Think the Chief needs friends now?

    More shoes to fall!

  8. Ray O'Light

    Dunn ran for the Democratic nomination for Controller in 2006 but lost by 53% to 47% to John Chiang, who would then go on to win the general. In October 2006, Dunn was appointed as CEO of the California Medical Association. Since then, Dunn, along with dull knife in the drawer Martha Escutia, have formed their own political consulting and lobbying firm.

    “A pair of termed-out legislators are joining forces with their former political consultant to create a new political consulting and lobbying firm. Former Democratic senators Martha Escutia and Joe Dunn are teaming with longtime Democratic strategist Richie Ross in the new venture dubbed The Senators Firm.”

    If “The Senators Firm” is now working for the Chief Justice and/or the Judicial Council / Administrative Office of the Courts, whether for money or pro bono, it should be reported to the the FPPC and SOS. There are serious fines and penalties for failing to do so.

    Dunn and Escutia will also be partners in a new law practice that will operate under The Senators moniker.

  9. Ray O'Light

    What the heck is this nonsense from the AOC? It’s flying all over California.

    http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/reference/documents/factsheets/ajf.pdf

  10. joshmadisonn

    Ray O’Light: I laughed out loud after visiting your link. So the secret fund has finally gone public. Must have something to do with the impending audit. Funny, the fact sheet makes no mention that the fund has been used to pay for alcoholic beverages at JC events. Surely such expenditures help to build “relationships between the judicial branch and justice system partners.”

  11. Ray O'Light

    We always want to give people the benefit of the doubt, however … any time someone creates a document that summarizes events that have taken place over the past 8 years, he or she has a serious evidentiary and credibility problem.

    There is a passing mention of food and beverages, but no mention of how this activity may have provided a personal benefit to judges. And it’s frankly nonsensical — sending flowers is a nice gesture, but does it further a related government purpose?

    There is also no mention of the $75,000 loan that Mr. Shapiro made to the Chief Justice, but I imagine that the press can follow up on all of this.

  12. “Words are like leaves, and where they most abound, much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found.” Alexander Pope

    8 pages of AOC facts which means that they did not tell the public who, besides Mr. Shapiro, gave money ( He gave $76,500.00 but the total gifts are $190,425.00). The AOC did not tell the public the dollar amounts spent on any of the programs listed in this 8 page report. The AOC did not say whether or not they ever told any judge that they were getting a gift. The list of what the AOC did not say in this report goes on and on.

    These are just more “ÄOC Facts”. We did not hire any more people after the hiring freeze. We do not fire people when the blow the whistle. We did not give our senior staff pay raises. We will have CCMS finished in 2010. CCMS will cost 1.3 billion. We do not hire unlicensed contractors.

    There will be a follow up by the press or the Legislature and it is not going to be pretty.

    • Well, Omerta, as you may have already come to realize, CCMS will never get finished. It can’t be finished because the code written so far has thousands if not tens of thousands of coding errors. And those riding herd on this will never give up on on their own trying to get it to work. The 2010 finish date will become 2011, then 2012, then …. This will go on for as long as there is money available to pour into this crazy project. The cost will rise until the taxpayers run out of money and/or patience.

      Can electronic court records and software to manage them be produced? Of course. It would only take a short time to do that. I could practically do it in my sleep. But that can’t start until those in charge either give up on CCMS, or there is a forced stoppage.

      As you note, there may be a followup by the press. Major media. And if they press the point before the AOC and the Chief Justice decide to listen to people who actually know how to write modern software, the result won’t be pretty. I have absolutely nothing against Ron George or the members of the CTAC. But they are totally out of their element when it comes to evaluating the writing of modern software. They are absolutely clueless.

      Sooner or later, this is going to come to a head.

    • JusticeCalifornia

      So here is the question.

      What do you do with those within the three branches of government who a) break the laws, and/or b) retaliate against those who are whistleblowing. . . . . . .or c) those who know about a and/or b, but do nothing about it?

      Here is where we are (rightfully) heading, in all 3 branches of government. Those who know about “a” and “b” but are doing nothing to correct the situation, are going to be considered as bad as those they are actively or passively protecting.

      Those hired by, or elected by, the public, must, FIRST AND FOREMOST, protect the public’s rights and interests under the law.

      Or else. right? If I am wrong, correct me.

  13. Ray O'Light

    You are correct.

    450 Golden Gate is getting new neighbors that will be more than happy to clean up 455 on behalf of the United States of America. The Chief Justice of California is a state worker with no more power than any other. It’s already in motion.

  14. man, is this website dying or what? AOC watcher, you must have got a job or something……………

  15. It is not dying. Omerta has, under his/her real name, been contacted by both members of the press and the Legislature because of the posts on this blog. Omerta does not know who AOC Watcher is but whoever this person(s) is deserves our greatest respect. This website has changed the entire judicial landscape in the past year. Do not fool yourselves: members of the Judicial Council, the AOC , the press and the Legislature read what is posted here. The first two entities are terrified of what we say. Omerta knows this because Omerta has spoken to members of the Judicial Council and the AOC.They would love to find out who the AOC Watcher is and who are the various persons who post on this blog.

    Perhaps the AOC Watcher is telling each and every one of us to get off of our behinds and get the information out that has appeared on this blog. Each one of us has an individual responsibility not to remain neutral in times of great moral crisis.

    Post here under your real name or blog names and follow up by letters and conversations with the people who will make a difference. This means the Legislature and the public.

    What about this latest email from Justice Chin to all of the California judges in which he said that CCMS was the best thing since running hot water? He cited the latest CIO report of 90 some pages in support of his opinion. He could not have read this report. He has become another shill for the Chief and Mr. Vickrey. Do not be afraid to ask him questions as to why he believes as he does and what facts he has to support his beliefs.

    At this time next year we will have a new Governor. Jerry Brown may not have much technical knowledge of computers but he knows baloney when he sees it. And the Chief Justice is full of baloney (hint: if Brown really thought much of judges why would he appoint Rose Bird to be CJ and leave out Tobriner for whom he clerked?) Whitman as worked with computers and computer systems for much of her life. When she reads the CIO report ( Omerta has a belief that she or her staff has already done so) she will smell a rat. The glory days of the Chief Justice, the AOC and all of their tag alongs are over start November.

    Post on this blog…even stupid things…and contact your Legislators.

  16. Ray O'Light

    I concur Omerta. It’s a new era. People in the AOC and the courts need to start thinking with their heads.

    If you have nothing to hide, you will be fine. If you are playing the AOC, EOP, HR and/or Justice Huffman game of intimidation, denial and repression – you are already in big trouble.

    If you are complicit in the various cover-ups, illegal activity and mistreatment of employees, or you are a recipient of a fat pay increase when no one would hire you for even half the salary in the private sector …

    Get ready to be exposed.

  17. Wendy Darling

    For many of us, we’ll believe the calvary is coming when they actually show up. Most of us know that only happens in the movies.

    Until then, the draconian misconduct of the Office of the Chief Justice, the Judicial Council, and the AOC will continue unchecked, and the employees of the AOC know better at this point than to hope or believe that anyone is going to stop them, or even intervene.

  18. Ray O'Light

    Expectations of a cavalry are unrealistic.

    However, a change in the top judicial leadership, coupled with serious ovesight of the AOC by the Legisltature and Attorney General, is quite realistic. The Chief Justice and perhaps the Administrative Director needs to retire, or else the various messes they have created (Shapiro misuse of funds, use of illegal contractors, mismanagment of funds,, and employment lawsuits) will get more and more press play all summer.

    Finally, don’t underestimate D.O.J. under President Obama. Their model is not to let things go unchecked.

  19. Omerta and Ray O’Light I agree that we should speak out about CCMS but, unlike some others posting here, I have (a) no particular animosity toward the AOC, (b) no particular animosity toward any members of the bench over CCMS, and (c) no agenda at all here except to try to divert everyone from CCMS to a modern system that works well and costs little. Such a system could be put into operation very quickly but that must be preceded by a decision to stop going down the wrong road – a road called CCMS.

    The factors causing our government to continue down the obviously wrong road are complex and involve pride, embarrassment, money, lobbying, unwillingness to try new things, ignorance about modern technology, and pressure from others to not look at better solutions, often probably in the vain hope that somehow or other CCMS will get fixed. And I’ll bet a good psychologist could find several more explanations for the human behavior involved here.

    Omerta, I have spoken out. Quite a bit. I have written extensively about what is wrong with CCMS and what could be done instead to provide our trial courts with electronic records and good management of those records. Look at the government pages and justice system pages on my Web site. I have also contacted several members of the Legislature and offered to help. And I have contacted people within the Judicial Branch of government. Why those folks have not done anything constructive is really beyond me. The legislators simply have hearings, hear that everything is a mess, and go on to another topic at another hearing. Those in the judicial branch keep saying the fix is right around the corner, appearing to be in denial of the reality. Few will look at what happened (and is still happening) in Colorado or Texas or with the Los Angeles Unified School District, or excuse those
    situations as somehow not having any logical bearing on the task of creating software for our courts.

    I have also spoken with various people in the court system and looked at what has been done with CCMS. The solutions are obvious and simple, at least to me. And I have explained them to a number of people. But no one takes any action. I hear a lot of crying and whining but no one takes any action.

    How fast could all this be fixed? So fast it would make your head spin. I have written data management software that is far more complex than what we need to simply create and manage superior court case records. None of the data involved is complex and none of the processing required is complex.

    But CCMS is based on ancient architecture, ancient components, and incompatible components, and is being handled at the business (i.e. AOC) level by people with no technology expertise, particularly in the key area of IT known as how to write modern software. Even after several years of repeated examples of errors being made, those in charge have either not learned they are on the wrong track or they are just not willing to admit it. I think it’s the latter but …?? I mean how in the world could anyone look at the thousands of problems identified so far and not know something is horribly wrong with the process?

    At this point, I think that pride is getting in the way. I don’t think it needs to but it is. Remember Thalidomide? Remember how long it took to get admissions and corrective action? That went faster toward extinction than CCMS is going, probably because of the quickly visible human toll while CCMS has been primarily monetary until very recently. Some people appearing before the Legislature were actually advancing reasoning that since a lot of money has been spent, we should not quit now on CCMS and should throw good money after bad. Now we are getting into the human toll area as courts shut down, more employees are laid off, lines for counter service extend out to the street, etc.

    It may take a computer system collapse in some county to get people to take a look at what is possible. I hope it doesn’t come to that – because it’s so much easier to extract and convert data and to migrate a business process in a calm, controlled environment – but the trainwreck seems almost inevitable.

    I hope those in charge really are monitoring this blog and that they will swallow their pride and call me. I just want to help and I’d rather do it in a calm atmosphere than in the middle of a panic after an entire county court is in chaos and data is possibly unrecoverable.

  20. As I took a walk around my yard, I thought some more about what Omerta said. It is time for those on this blog to speak out and take action. I recall that in the latest court news video and in earlier ones, there was mention of counties operating on the edge, wondering if their ancient legacy systems would fail and leave them in the lurch.

    Who are these counties? I have never heard one specifically named. Does anyone know of any such specific situation? If so, have that county contact me. Don’t just wait for a collapse.

  21. WiseEmployee

    Wendy Darling,
    The disheartening you express is probably palpable to every reader of this blog. This blog has brought so much to light and many of us learned that we are not alone in our thinking and understanding of the misconduct and misfeasance or even malfeasance going on in the judiciary. But change is slow. The rot slowly grew in the branch before we all realized just how spoiled and grotesque things had become. The clean-up process and change is slow. But clean up and change has been happening and more is coming. Meaningful change rarely comes in the form of one big sweeping reform. Often it comes in methodical small pieces that when combined equal the change we all desire. Just think how much a year has brought: illumination of the problems associated with CCMS and now a JLAC audit; open records that have lead to substantially more information being released to the public; the ACJ and their vocal and successful activism; the acknowledgement of the Shapiro funds and even an attempt to delineate the usage; major newspapers have become willing to expose the waste, fraud and abuse at the AOC; and the whistleblower protection bill and independent audit bill have so far won bipartisan support. All of this, because we have independently and collectively worked to bring about this change. Collectively, we have made in-roads. A difference is being made. This effort we are all engaged in is not a sprint, it’s an ultra-marathon that requires discipline, the digging deep mentality to keep persisting even when you feel that all is futile and friends to encourage during those times of weariness. All is not futile; we have had successes. More is coming. The finish line is on the horizon. Please don’t feel too disheartened. Sometimes the quiet in a reform effort just means another tactic is being used to get something. Be assured there are many quietly working.

    • Wendy Darling

      Whatever “clean up” or change or or postive results you believe to have happened already, it hasn’t happened for the employees within the AOC. Things have only gotten worse. The only change that has happened for the employees of the AOC is that they won’t even think about reporting the abuse, misuse of public funds, ethical violations, and misconduct that is continuing to happen, because they all know what will happen to them and they have absolutely no ability to defend themselves. For the employees within the AOC hope for the future is meaningless and illusionary; unchecked tyranny is the reality.

  22. WiseEmployee, I understand your position but how can you be positive about malfeasance or misconduct by the top leaders in the judicial branch in respect to CCMS? I’m not addressing other issues besides CCMS and take no position on them. But based on my knowledge of computer technology, and having previously dealt with similar situations involving non-techie data managers trying to obtain software to manage their data, and such people having been misadvised about the technology by people they thought understood it, I leave open the strong possibility of top leaders in the judicial branch (and in the Legislature) simply having been misled about the matter of creating electronic trial court records and managing them electronically in a uniform manner.

    Would you be willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on that?

  23. WiseEmployee

    I think you misunderstand me. I am not positive about anything with regard to CCMS. I was simply trying to convey to readers that progress has been made. Admittedly, we are not where we all want to be. But, a year ago no one was even questioning anything about CCMS. At least, the light has been shone and inquiries and audits are being made. That is progress from a year ago. Yes, more needs to be done. I was simply trying to convey that some changes have come about so as to encourage those who feel discouraged and weary.

  24. Wendy Darling

    Here’s an interesting website some of you may want to visit: http://www.judgevoterguide.com.

    If you scroll down to the candidates standing for election to the bench of the San Francisco Superior Court in the upcoming California June 8th primary, you’ll see that Robert Retana of the AOC’s Office of General Counsel is running for Seat 6.

  25. Omerta, no disrespect intended for the AOC Watcher! But a lot of court folks are becoming disenchanted with the blog because they miss the up to date reports by the AOC Watcher. These up to date reports need to keep going to get those folks motivated to stay involved and take action. I just don’t want the blog to peter out before the job is done, and have the AOC Watcher legend live on!
    The flea is not a naysayer but one who says right on, but on the other hand… seeing both sides or pointing out what seems the obvious to me has been the baine of my existence.
    I am happy to hear this blog inspires fear in some as it rightfully should. But as I said, if it loses its punch and staying on top of the issues, that fear may dissipate and again, lose the spark and the ability to put fire under the butts of folks to fight this tyranny.
    The request to ask “posters” on this blog to reveal their true names may be too dangerous and imperil their ability to make some difference behind the scenes in a confidential manner. The use of the nom de plume has been around for centuries and has been very effective. The example that comes to mind is Thomas Payne.
    Rock on AOC watcher and keep this revolution going.

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      Many have been working behind the scenes to bring about change. One of the challenges has been a unified front and a unified set of goals. Due to a myriad of reasons, some entities won’t work with other entities even if they have the same common goal.

      The judicial branch is challenged by a host of impediments that prevent private parties from working with judicial officers and judges.

      Judges hands are seemingly tied by pending or potential litigation on a variety of subjects from the unlicensed contractor debacle to the CCMS or the issues in Marin and Sacramento family courts to the questionable conduct by the PJ and her husband with respect to his DA election to poor Richard Fine (who should be immediately released – let’s face it – he is a political prisoner at this point. While Bart Police Officer Johannes Mehserle walks around a free man that has posted bail after killing someone, poor Mr. Fine has been locked up in solitary confinement for over a year now) to SBx211 being the only law in the history of California legislation to grant retroactive immunity for accepting what some might construe as a bribe – where only the bribee has the authority to recuse….when such recusal should be automatic.

      We have a crisis of some in our branch being above the law simply because they represent the law.

      Many questionable appointments by the JC and questionable hires by the AOC call into question the legitimacy of the branch itself. Stalling and non-cooperation with state auditors who were sent in by the state legislature over frivilous matters isn’t winning the judicial branch any points in the public eye and is beginning to question the legitimacy of an entire branch of government over a few questionable acts of a few bad apples.

      The wagons are circling all over the place. And until the veil of denial and ignorance is dropped in favor of legitimate transparency and accountability, things will get progressively worse for the judicial branch.

      Several in the AOC have been calling for the diversion of new construction funds to maintain the buildings that they inherited as opposed to building new buildings people no one can afford to man and these calls are growing louder as people realize that the service providers are not only grossly overpriced but they are incompetent and inefficient and our buildings and their occupants are feeling more of an impact every day.

      Lest you believe otherwise, do you know that people are being sent to Fresno from Sacramento to clean up pigeon droppings outside a Fresno courthouse or that the same company has been denying its workers overtime wages?

      Do you know that every time you have a lightbulb burn out in a courthouse, a $500.00 service work order is issued to a service provider to change that one bulb and that the service provider collects a management fee and customer satisfaction bonus of up to 35% over the costs of changing that bulb?

      Are you aware that the service contracts of the unlicensed contractors that were entered into were to expire in April and that they were extended to newly licensed entities? What kind of perversion of justice is that?

      “We know you’ve been ripping off the taxpayer for three years now and have not had the requisite license that would permit you to rip the taxpayers off – but seeing that you just got your california contractors’ license, we’re going to forego granting the opportunity of the clearly more qualified to bid on these projects and reward you not only for your previous breach of contract but for ripping off the taxpayers.”

      “Because we ourselves have some culpability in these matters by not checking that you had a contractors license we won’t be considering your previously fraudulent invoices as false claims against the state whereas we should be collecting three times what we paid you and distributing that money amongst the trial courts. In its stead, here is a no-bid extension; our reward for your criminal activity.”

      • JusticeCalifornia

        Obi, once again, very well said. You summarized the controversial and uncomfortable issues facing the judiciary that can cause division, panic and a circling of the wagons among the best and best-intentioned judges. Pandora’s box has been opened, and all kinds of furies have been released.

        The box cannot be closed. The public will not allow it. Denial, panic and a circling of the wagons won’t do anything except incite a true revolution.

        No, the only way out of this mess, is through it. Ethical, strong, and realistic leadership within the judiciary is needed. The judiciary needs to identify those within the ranks who can offer this type of leadership, and mobilize. Perhaps this is taking place right now.

        While the bad apples (I like to call them “the baddies”) are the obvious target right now, the fact is, public attention WILL be paid to those on the sidelines, in positions of power, who turn away and stay silent. Court employees, court victims, and their advocates, professional and otherwise, should not be forced to do the heavy lifting in this mess. Some of us have been doing it for going on two decades, and we are not paid to do it–in fact, we are brutally retaliated against for doing it. (I have found that the best protection against these abuses is to get LOUDER and LOUDER about them).

        Richard Fine is still in jail.

        In Marin right now, the family court is sending its bloodied, distraught victims right back to their law-breaking court-affiliated tormentors—Marin hasn’t altered a thing, except minute orders, registers of actions, and files the auditor might be interested in looking at.

        Obi, the costs and practices you describe are shocking.

        As long as these abuses continue, public rage and agitation will increase. That sounds like a threat, but it isn’t. It is a fact.

        Having said all of that, I will say this– it has been an amazing year or two, and 2010 is off the charts in terms of progress made regarding public and official awareness of the need for judicial reform. It is exhausting, but everyone has to help each other out—sharing information, picking up where the other leaves off in sheer exhaustion or temporary despair, and most importantly, covering each other’s backs (protecting each other, at all levels, is key). Everyone must utilize his or her own special talents, knowledge, and connections.

        Pandora’s box was not all bad. As the story goes, locked in the box with “the evils” was the only power strong enough to defeat the evils—and that was Hope.

        Never, never, never give up. Our country is oh-so-young! 1776 was only a few generations ago. And look at what has been accomplished since then. . . .time is relative, and we are a very strong, intelligent, resourceful, resilient and determined people. California is on the forefront of the effort to do what is necessary to preserve the system of checks and balances. We just have to put one foot in front of the other, and move steadily forward.

        AOC watcher has done an amazing thing with this website. It offers an opportunity to share information and perspectives—even those that are uncomfortable for most judges to hear. Thank you AOC watcher. I appreciate that you may have gotten more than you bargained for. . .

      • Obi-Wan Kenobi

        We need more judges with the courage to ruffle feathers – like DeAnn Salcido.

        http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1202457947309&Calif_Judge_Files_Writ_Against_Own_Court

      • JusticeCalifornia

        Interesting point, Obi.

        http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/courts/supreme/documents/ca_code_judicial_ethics.pdf

        Canon 3 D 1:

        D. Disciplinary Responsibilities

        (1) Whenever a judge has reliable information that another judge has violated any provision of the Code of Judicial Ethics, the judge shall take or initiate appropriate corrective action, which may include reporting the violation to the appropriate authority.*

        *Appropriate authority” denotes the authority with responsibility for initiation of the disciplinary process with respect to a violation to be reported. See Commentary to Canon 3D.

        ADVISORY COMMITTEE COMMENTARY:
        Appropriate corrective action could include direct communication with the judge or lawyer who has committed the violation, other direct action if available, or a report of the violation to the presiding judge, appropriate authority, or other agency or body.”

        Everyone should read the writ filed by Judge Salcido. It appears Judge Salcido did her best to bring what she considered to be ongoing and very dangerous lawbreaking judicial activity to the higher court’s attention. Under the Code of Judicial Ethics, all judges–including the court of appeal justices who denied Judge Salcido’s writ– have a duty to report lawbreaking activity, and I hope, upon reading Judge Salcido’s disturbing petition, that court of appeal panel has, at the very least, requested an investigation of her charges about the judges she names, and also the disappearing money. . . — and I do mean before reading this blog. The court of appeal said: “we note we have no direct disciplinary power over superior court judges” but they certainly have the duty and power to report under the Code of Judicial Ethics– so did they? I suppose that is easy enough to ascertain, eh?

        Unfortunately, I fear, from reading the Court of Appeal’s comments, that it is following the “shoot the messenger”; “kill the whistleblower” unoffical court “rules”. Let’s see.

        Now, just imagine a world where the CA Code of Judicial Ethics was actually followed, and judges were actually disciplined for failing to report violations of the law and Code of Judicial Ethics, by other judges. . . .

      • Obi-Wan Kenobi

        JusticeCalifornia: Up in your neighborhood, tomorrow night – If you want to find a good candidate advocating change in the Marin courts, I would strongly recommend going to tomorrow night’s debate.

        The Marin County Bar Association is hosting a Haakenson-Burton debate on May 13 from 7 to 9 p.m. This free event is being held at Jason’s Restaurant at 300 Drakes Landing Road in Greenbrae. You will likely hear some amazing contrasts between the candidates and their positions.

      • JusticeCalifornia

        One more thing.

        The judicial and executive branches should be required to report to the legislature each year regarding the total cost to the public of defending against charges that members of the judicial branch have violated the law– and/or settlements related thereto.

      • JusticeCalifornia

        Obi, I am going to the Marin County judicial debate tomorrow. You know what is really funny? The Marin County Bar Association sent out an e-mail telling bar members that questions should be submitted in advance. Query– this is a public debate– does that mean the public gets to ask no questions? And that the MCBA gets to cherry-pick and censor the questions?

        Let’s see.

      • Obi-Wan Kenobi

        Here is a comment that I can agree with from the Marin IJ about last night’s debate.

        Last night there was a debate at Jason’s restaurant between Haakenson and Burton.

        Burton pointed out all of the issues affecting the marin courts and the culture of corruption where standing judges like Haakenson look the other way. Last night’s debate was no exception.

        Haakenson ignored as rhetoric the systemic problems with the marin courts and abdicated his responsibilities under Government Code 7700 (local judges run the courts) in favor of preserving the status quo.

        The current court executive officer signed off on her predecessors grand fraud of over 600K in public funds. And her unjust reward was that she was not only promoted to Court exec but she was appointed to the Judicial Council – The same Judicial council that has been embroiled in a 2 billion court case management system that doesn’t work.

        The same judicial council that is feigning ignorance regarding their use of unlicensed construction contractors statewide to maintain and remodel court buildings.

        The same judicial council that is working with her to block the Bureau of State Audits audit ORDERED BY THE STATE LEGISLATURE for the past 10 months.

        Mr. Haakenson has had years to decide if he is part of the solution or part of the problem and last night’s debate clearly indicated that Paul Haakenson is part of the problem.

        The IJ has improperly framed the two candidates.

        Haakenson as a Judge on the bench that all but abdicates his responsibility to locally administer the courts vs. Burton’s promise to get in the Marin courts and clean up the mess is how this election should be framed.

        Mr. Burton from the onset of his campaign said he would take no donations and solicit no endorsements and has lived up to his promise.

        Meanwhile Haakenson has solicited endorsements from court employees and other officers of the court, accepted donations from people like CEO Kim Turner and the incestuous Freitas, McCarthy law firm that really runs the Marin courts. Furthermore Freitas, McCarthy runs his campaign.

        The choice for Marin voters is a stark reality between more of the same and reform that you can believe in.

        Anyone attending last night’s debate walked away knowing that Judge Haakenson is in utter denial about all that is happening in his court, disclaims and abdicates his responsibility to manage that court and is the wrong kind of judge for the people of Marin.

        Judicial Reform starts with Mark Burton being sent to the Marin Bench on June 5th.

      • JusticeCalifornia

        Last night’s Marin judicial debate was extraordinary, for a number of reasons (that I will go into but not at this late hour!)

        One of the biggest was this– a popular judge has been called out for failing to have the leadership and independence to a) acknowledge that corruption problems exist on the Marin bench; b) acknowledge that corruption problems exist in Marin administration; c) take any steps to do anything at all about (a) and (b); or d) run his campaign without campaign “help” from a good-old-boy bench crony law firm that owns a lot of bought-and-paid-for real estate on the Marin bench, via marriage and campaign activities.

        More anon.

  26. Ray O'Light

    [Judge] Friedman said, however, that while he will “will certainly make myself available to resolve public policy disputes,” he will “absolutely not” serving “in any public capacity.”

    http://www.metnews.com/articles/2009/frie120809.htm

    Isn’t being an advisory member of the Judicial Council of California serving in a public capacity? WTF Judge Friedman, are you dumb or for hire?

  27. Wendy Darling

    For those of you with access to The Daily Recorder, there is a new article from Cheryl Miller regarding the Judicial Branch budget:

    Court Budget Deal Begins to Take Shape
    The Recorder
    By Cheryl Miller
    May 12, 2010
    SACRAMENTO — As the governor prepares to release his revised state budget Friday, the broad framework of a judicial budget deal is coming together in the closing days.

    The still-developing agreement relies on new civil filing and security fees as well as the use of court construction money and other judiciary funds to generate approximately $230 million, according to several sources. The plan would end monthly statewide court closures.

    Chief Justice Ronald George also met with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday afternoon in hopes of securing additional general fund money for the branch.

    http://www.law.com

  28. Concerned4U

    Attention Judges of California-

    If you are looking to retire anytime soon, it is important that you know that The Administrative Office of the Courts, Judicial Services Unit can no longer assist you in providing you Judges Retirement information. The unit is no longer equipped with or maintains qualified experienced employees to handle any questions or concerns regarding retirement estimates, calculations, and prior service buy backs, ESIP, Reciprocity issues etc. The unit that had previously provided these vital services for the last 8 years has all but vanished.
    As most of you know, Jim Niehaus (previous lead over the JSU) felt forced to retire from the AOC as of August of last year. He had been the lead over the JSU for some 8 years. However, in early summer of last year a new manager position was created, and Jeannine Seher was hired and assigned to oversee the unit; Hired mind you, during the beginning of the “HARD FREEZE”. Jeannine has no previous experience with judges, no JRS background, and in all actuality has no knowledge of any retirement or CalPERS experience at all. Let it also be known that in the very few months she has been there, she has single handedly ran all three very experienced and important employees out of AOC, in one way or another with her very unethical and toxic management style. She has been allowed by upper management to drive out 3 employees, who combined shared over 25 years judicial retirement experience, and who worked extremely well together as a team; a team that you no doubt came to really know and trust, and who had become your judicial confidants.
    You should also know that Jeannine Seher has hired at least two temps with no experience to replace the well qualified staff, temps who have received merely 2 hours of training from JRS on retirement matters, and who were also hired during the “Hard Freeze”. Coincidently or not so coincidently, these two temps knew and worked with Ms. Seher at her previous employer. It is obvious that there is no longer anyone who oversees “JSU” that has your best interest at heart, or they would not have let all three of their employees with the most experience be harassed, ridiculed and shoved out the door. They do not want you to know that there is no one left to advise, counsel or guide you into retirement. They instead want to create an illusion that it is “business as usual”, and if you were to call right now they would have to enlist the help of Judges Retirement System to answer your questions, as Ms. Seher and the 2 temps know just enough to make them dangerous.
    You have given California the best years of your life; you have provided our courts and the people of California with fair and impartial justice. You now deserve the most up to date, correct and concise information regarding your retirement needs. Jim Niehaus remains in the capacity to assist you. Helping the Judges and Justices of California is still his passion. You may contact him at California Judges Association @ 1-866-432-1252

  29. Wendy Darling

    As reported by Cheryl Miller in The Recorder, the Chief Justice met with the Governor this week, on Tuesday, May 11th, in hopes of securing additional funding for the Judicial Branch in the upcoming “judicial budget deal.” See article below at http://www.law.com:
    Court Budget Deal Begins to Take Shape
    The Recorder
    By Cheryl Miller
    May 12, 2010
    SACRAMENTO — As the governor prepares to release his revised state budget Friday, the broad framework of a judicial budget deal is coming together in the closing days.
    The still-developing agreement relies on new civil filing and security fees as well as the use of court construction money and other judiciary funds to generate approximately $230 million, according to several sources. The plan would end monthly statewide court closures.
    Chief Justice Ronald George also met with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday afternoon in hopes of securing additional general fund money for the branch.
    As reported by Jon Ortiz of the Sacramento Bee, that same day, Tuesday, May 11th, the State Supreme Court received what is described as an “unusual letter” on behalf of the Governor asking that the court use its authority to review a furlough case that the Schwarzenegger administration has twice lost, and for which the time for filing any further appeal by the Governor had expired.
    According to the article, the letter was hand-delivered to the State Supreme Court, and requested that although a Petition for Review had not been timely filed, that the Supreme Court use its authority “to order review on its own motion.” The same day that the State Supreme Court received this letter, Chief Justice Ronald George personally signed off on this one sentence order:
    The time for granting review on the court’s own motion is hearby extended to and including July 17, 2010.
    Here’s the link to the Sacramento Bee article: http://www.sacbee.com
    May 13, 2010
    Schwarzenegger’s ‘unusual’ letter to the state Supreme Court
    David Tyra — the private attorney whose firm, Kronick Moskovitz Tiedeman and Gerard, has been retained by the Schwarzenegger administration for furlough litigation — has asked the state Supreme Court to consider taking up a case that the administration has twice lost.
    Well, that’s sort of what he asked. Stay with us on this.
    On Tuesday, the court received this hand-delivered letter from Tyra, asking that the court use its authority to review CASE v. Schwarzenegger. The administration lost the case last year after a San Francisco judge determined that furloughing State Fund legal staff violated state insurance code. The 1st District Court of Appeal upheld the trial court’s decision.
    Yesterday, Friday, May 14th, Bill Vickrey sent out an agency wide AOC e-mail stating that the Governor had restored $100 million dollars in funding to the Judicial Branch budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
    Guess that all worked out nicely for the Chief Justice and Governor Schwarzenegger.
    So much for change and reform at the Judicial Branch. Maybe they should just put up a “For Sale” sign out in front of 455 Golden Gate Avenue and change the name to the Administrative Office of Corruption.

  30. JusticeCalifornia

    I am in a story-telling mood. It is a judicial morality tale, and a bit long, so I will write and tell it in parts this weekend. Tune in or out, as you like.

    On Thursday, May 13, 2010, the Marin County Bar Association hosted a debate between Marin Judge Paul Haakenson and Marin resident (and San Francisco-based lawyer) Mark Burton.

    Haakenson ran for judge in 2004, but lost by a narrow margin to Faye D’Opal. Thereafter, in late 2006, he was appointed to the bench by Governor Schwarzenegger – something he himself had reportedly predicted would happen. Prior to his appointment Haakenson had served as a deputy district attorney for the Marin County District Attorney’s Office since 1993. During his career at the District Attorney’s Office, he headed the child abuse and sexual assault unit and the domestic violence unit.

    When Haakenson was appointed, the hope of many was he would use his law enforcement/dv/abuse background, and work to clean up the lawbreaking activity and abuses birthed and perpetuated by certain Marin judges and court administrators, particularly those in the family court. For well over a decade the Marin family court has been infamous for its tawdry inbred cronyism (see http://www.sfweekly.com/2000-10-18/news/odor-odor-in-the-court ), and tawdry administrative scandals (like the funneling of $650,000 in court contracts to the Court Executive Officer’s girlfriend), and complaints that, with the help of certain go-to Marin judges, court employees and court appointees, children are taken from loving, protective parents, and handed over to wealthy or well-connected parents with problematic backgrounds of abuse, neglect, debilitating mental illness, drug addictions, and/or domestic violence. In a 2005 report of the CA Attorney General called “Keeping the Promise”, it was revealed that Marin County rated WORST of all counties with a population of 100,000 or more with respect to rate of issuance of domestic violence restraining orders after hearing, and third worst in the state, overall. Was Marin blessed with fewer domestic violence perps, or cursed with judges who let the perps (especially wealthy, connected white perps) go free?

    The bench did not get cleaned up after Haakenson was appointed, and the domestic violence issues only got worse. In January of 2009 the Marin Women’s Commission issued a report stating that domestic violence is Marin’s number one crime, and this statistic was bolstered by a July 2009 report that while 88% of cases referred by law enforcement agencies to the Marin District Attorney’s office over the past five years involved domestic violence, less than 9% of the District Attorney’s budget was allotted for domestic violence issues. Further, many say the 2007-2009 reign of Verna Adams (as presiding judge) and Kim Turner (as Court Executive Officer) together at the helm of the Marin Superior Court was one of the most brutal, lawbreaking, periods the Marin family court has ever seen. Some of the court custody abuses during this time period were so blatant and horrific that they were broadcast everywhere — at board of supervisors meetings, in public forums, in the newspapers, at legislative meetings. You couldn’t miss the stories, and some of them resulted in the current pending JLAC audit of the Marin Family Court.

    So where was Haakenson, former prosecutor/head of child abuse/sexual assault/domestic violence units-turned-judge while all of this was happening? Since 2007 he has been running his assigned (primarily criminal) Marin courtrooms, by all accounts very well, and volunteering in the Marin community, while carefully steering clear and staying silent about the brouhaha going on in Marin court administration, and his neighboring (down the hall) Marin courtrooms. And as a result, there is no doubt about it, he became a non-controversial and popular judge. Solid as a rock, right?

    Then, faced with a 2010 retention election, Haakenson reached a fork in the road. He could take the less-traveled high road, or the well-traveled Marin judicial low road, littered with Marin’s decades-old political pimps and prostitutes, power-mongers and good old boys. . .

    End of part one.

  31. Wendy Darling

    Is anyone even surprised by this? After all, isn’t the AOC defending the Marin Court and CEO Kim Turner regarding the current audit? The Marin Court is just following the example set for them by the Office of the Chief Justice and 455 Golden Gate Avenue, and has been for quite some time.

  32. JusticeCalifornia

    Yes, Wendy, the AOC has defended the Marin court and many of the baddies on the Marin court have been defended by the higher courts too (you know who you are, and so do I.)

    And I mean geez-louise! After Marin Court Executive Officer Kim Turner was slapped upside the head by the AOC for signing off on her former Marin boss’s expensive bad acts and waiting so long to report him, Big Ron George invited Turner into his “fold” by placing her on his exclusive Judicial Council. . . .

    And although AFTER being taken under Big Ron’s wing, and being placed on that exclusive Judicial Council (which sets state judicial policy) Turner reportedly gave orders to destroy court files the JLAC auditors might want to review, she is still on that Judicial Council and the AOC is protecting her. (By the way, I have asked about that destruction of files, but haven’t been given any answers. . .)

    Hmmmm…. perhaps the seductive protections and gifts the baddies have enjoyed from on high were on Judge Haakenson’s mind as he approached the fork in the road. . .

    Let’s pause here for a moment, and consider.

    Haakenson was Marin’s non-controversial fair-haired boy, with a long list of fans and supporters, including court critics. And, truth be told, he had worked hard for those fans and supporters. So he had a BPF (Bright Political Future). Everybody said so. High road? Low road? High road? Low road? Hmmmmm. . . .since he had such a BPF, and so many hard-earned supporters, would it really matter? The high road was a bit rockier, and a bit riskier, the low road so much easier. . . . .I mean really, SO much easier. . . .SO tried and true. . . .and SO protected and rewarded. . . .

  33. Please note, this flea is not one of those fleas noted in the article attached by Justice California. JC, how do we know that Kim Turner did not feel intimidated or concerned about her employment when the former CEO John Montgomery had her sign for his travel, etc.? And did that play a part in her delay to report this actions? was there any pressure from her bench not to do such a thing? not that that is a good excuse but it could cause one pause….Just curious.

  34. JusticeCalifornia

    Ahhh. . . .courtflea. Good question.

    In early 2005 or so, when a Marin financial audit was pending, and the handwriting was on the wall, Turner allegedly turned in Montgomery, and told everyone she did what she did because she was bullied.

    But a bit of research on Turner shows she did a big fat report back in 99 or so (with interesting advice on how courts can kind of threaten and play financially tough with counties to get what they want), and in the preface she thanks Montgomery for his support, calling him her “friend” and “boss extraordinaire”.

    Hey, her subsequent actions and her story got her what she wanted. . . .her “friend” and “boss extraordinaire’s” cushy job. . . .and the ability to replace lots of longtime Marin court employees who didn’t like her, with her buddies. . .and apparently, Big Ron’s attention as someone with real talent.

    That is not to say it’s all Turner’s fault. If bad behavior in the judiciary was punished rather than rewarded, we wouldn’t be seeing a) so much bad behavior, or b) the current (growing) backlash against the judiciary. And Turner would have been fired long ago.

    Which brings me back to my judicial morality tale: like all good pimps, judicial baddies and their buddies are always looking for fresh talent– the prettier and smarter, the better. . .

    • Wendy Darling

      Justice California (with apologies to William Holden and Gloria Swanson):

      All right, Mr. DeMille, we’re ready for the close-up …

    • JusticeCalifornia

      Here is part two of my judicial morality tale—it is a bit long, but I promised I would do it–read it or not, as you like. I do not want to detract from the fascinating postings below and elsewhere. But speaking of reacharounds. . . . .

      Perhaps you have correctly guessed that Paul Haakenson took Marin’s low road, choosing a Marin fixture named Neil Moran to be his campaign treasurer, because “Moran is good at filling out forms.” Uh huh.

      In Marin County’s infamous “you scratch my back, I will scratch yours” culture, the go-to man to run a judicial retention campaign is Moran, a partner at the Freitas McCarthy law firm. Moran has run the campaigns for many judges facing retention elections—including, in recent history, Michael Dufficy and John Sutro – neither of whom was particularly respected in the legal community. Moran was the campaign treasurer, and the Freitas McCarthy address was the listed address, for both the Dufficy and Sutro campaign committees. The Freitas McCarthy law firm was each judge’s top donor ($2,500), and for each judge, Moran delivered many of the same endorsements Haakenson is now touting—all sitting Marin judges, multiple retired judges, all past presidents of the bar association, etc., etc. – notwithstanding Dufficy’s clearly sordid “Sheepranch” partying past and multiple admonishments by the CJP.

      What does Moran and Freitas McCarthy get out of this? Well, Moran is married to Judge Lynn Duryee. Moran’s Freitas McCarthy law partner, Peter Kleinbrodt, is married to Beverly Wood. Wood used to work at Freitas McCarthy, until she was selected by the Marin bench from a field of 60 applicants for the job of Marin court commissioner. Then Duryee and her good friend Wood sat together on the Marin Family Bench – if you didn’t get one, you got the other. And Ali Quam, who also worked at Freitas McCarthy, was hired as the Marin Family Court Facilitator. (Some have called the Marin courts a full-service employment agency for Freitas McCarthy.)

      Duryee is Marin’s richest judge, and has routinely reported a $100,000-$1,000,000 interest in the Freitas McCarthy law firm on her economic disclosures. Wood initially reported a $10,000-$100,000 interest in the Freitas McCarthy law firm on her disclosures—then it quickly grew to a $100,000-$1,000,000 reported interest. When Freitas McCarthy gets good clients, lucrative court appointments, good case outcomes and fee awards, Marin County bench officers Duryee and Wood benefit via their community property interest in Freitas McCarthy.

      So who does Freitas McCarthy list as representative clients? The County of Marin, the City of San Rafael, the Town of Tiburon, The City of Belvedere, the Tamalpais Union High School district, the Marin Municipal Water district—among others.

      As of March 17, 2010, Moran’s firm had donated $2,500, Kim Turner had donated $1,250, and Verna Adams had donated $1,000 to Haakenson—and those are substantial donations in Marin.

      Duryee, Adams and Wood have all had a hand in some of the worst Marin family court child custody cases involving a) protective parents who have lost custody to wealthy and/or well-connected parents with problematic pasts, and b) neglect, injuries and/or abuse of the children while in the care of the wealthy/connected/problematic parents. In aligning with Moran, Haakenson, notwithstanding his stellar credentials, has made it clear that he is a “team player”, and will not rock the boat, or bite the hands that feed him.

      That was one of Mark Burton’s main points, at last Thursday’s judicial debate. While Haakenson said he was interested in the JLAC audit results, Burton said he wouldn’t have waited for an audit, and that judges must be independent enough to take on other judges and court administration when necessary – something that is difficult when judges are taking endorsements and campaign contributions from administrators and other judges on the bench.

      While Haakenson emphasized his popularity and extensive Marin experience and credentials, Burton pointed out the benefits of seeing how things are done in other counties, emphasized the importance of finding creative solutions during these tough economic times, and had some really good suggestions for Marin – including saving money and court resources via good, early ADR programs, and, (this next was something he said after the debate) – the use of certified law students to help pro pers. (WOW—Marin and other counties could really use a certified law student program to help pro pers. Why didn’t the Elkins Task Force come up with that idea?)

      In summary: Haakenson was about as popular a judge as you could get in scandal-ridden Marin County, and was, by all accounts untouchable because of his widespread support. Along came Burton, who unexpectedly threw his hat into the ring, sparking scrutiny and debate. Haakenson could have picked someone else—anyone other than controversial good-old-boy, court crony Moran, to be his treasurer—but he took the low road, exposing his reliance on dirty hands to feed him. While this choice may not lose him the election (Burton entered the race late, is unknown to most, and the local paper failed to announce the debate that took place on the very day it endorsed Haakenson) it has tarnished Haakenson’s glow and marked him as a Moran/Duryee/Turner “recruit”.

      Meanwhile Burton held his own at the debate, floated some really good ideas, and put himself and his message on the radar. His point was clear and well taken, and very modern for these challenging times: if you are not a part of the solution, you are part of the problem. And if you are not part of the solution, get ready to be challenged – no matter how well you run your own little corner of the world, and how great you look on paper, if you are a fence-sitter, you cannot call yourself a leader, or escape blame for the corruption, waste and brutalities going on around you. You are fair game.

      • JusticeCalifornia

        Hi Obi-Wan

        So I was sitting here with my cup of coffee on this cloudy Spring morning, thinking about the upcoming retention election between Freitas-McCarthy backed incumbent Judge Paul Haakenson, and attorney Mark Burton. At one point during the May 13, 2010 judicial debate between these two, Haakenson talked about the grueling process to get appointed. And that reminded me that we have an open Marin Superior Court seat, waiting for appointment. So I called the JNE commission office, to make sure I was on the list to receive questionnaires about upcoming nominees. While on the phone I asked who the local vetting entity was for Marin County but the nice JNE person who answered the phone said she didn’t know — it was different for different counties, sometimes the local bar associations. She said I could call the governor’s office for more information, and she gave me the number.

        I was thinking, with two open spots on the Marin County Superior Court– one to be filled via appointment, and one via contested retention election— and with so much scrutiny on judicial matters, campaign contributions, and the nationwide debate about how judges are selected, it might be interesting to compare the processes. So this morning I did call the Governor’s office, and asked about the preliminary local screening process for Marin superior court judicial applicants. The governor’s office said that the governor has a trusted local entity that screens applications before they go to JNE, and that gives input to JNE, but the governor’s office said they don’t give out the name.

        Now how the heck would the public ever know if Marin’s “trusted local entity that screens applications before they go to JNE” is fair and impartial, or not, if we don’t even know who is doing the screening?

        So anyway, does anyone know the answer to this interesting and mysterious question for 2010 : who is Marin’s local screening entity for current Marin Superior Court judicial applications?

        Any idea?

      • Obi-Wan Kenobi

        That is a good question but it appears predicated on the guv’s political leanings. In progressive Marin, who is the predominantly republican law firm that’s a part of the predominantly republican political machine and makes large gubenatorial donations?

      • JusticeCalifornia

        Can I have another hint?

      • Ray O'Light

        JC: You can have their client list, if you want to see it on-line.

        http://www.nmgovlaw.com/firm_clients.htm

      • JusticeCalifornia

        Thank you Ray O’Light!

  35. WiseEmployee

    So just to change the topic a bit away from the Marin Superior Court, did anyone notice the action that the Assembly budget subcommittee took this past week? They adopted a number of accountability/transparency measures affecting the AOC. From what I understand these measures were recommendations made by the Assembly committee which held the AOC hearing last Fall. Also, the budget subcommittee did nott approve all of the funding for the court construction projects or other facilities projects. Instead the facilities funding is going to the budget conference committee to be decided upon there. Finally, the Governor’s budget revision restores $100 million in proposed cuts. Interesting….

    • Wendy Darling

      Speaking of interesting …

      Did you catch the article by Jon Ortiz in the Sacramento Bee about the hand delivered “unusual letter” from the Governor to that State Supreme Court, and the Chief Justice’s personal response? The same day that the State Supreme Court received this letter, Chief Justice Ronald George personally signed off on an interesting one sentence order.

      Here’s the link to the Sacramento Bee article – http//www.sacbee:
      The State Worker: Schwarzenegger’s ‘unusual’ letter to the state Supreme Court — from sacbee.com via SacConnect.us
      http://mee.bo/98tDWS

      • Ray O'Light

        A missed opportunity to appeal leading to the Tyra letter, which in turn leads to an extension order from the Chief Justice that is contrary to CRC everyone else must follow …

        Drunk with power & reach around friends with benefits?

      • Wendy Darling

        And then – poof!- two days later a $100 million dollars reappears in the Judicial Branch budget for the upcoming fiscal year, courtesy of the Governor.

        Guess that all worked out nicely for the Chief Justice and Governor Schwarzenegger.

        So much for change and reform at the Judicial Branch. Maybe they should just put up a “For Sale” sign out in front of 455 Golden Gate Avenue and change the name to the Administrative Office of Corruption.

      • Obi-Wan Kenobi

        I think the governor did have a for sale sign in front of the place for awhile there. Then someone did the math and realized selling state buildings and leasing them back saves you a few bucks today and makes some developer wealthy in rent payments over the life of the building. If I recall correctly, the governator is hoping to save some 600 mil with favorable decisions in the furlough matters. Surely 100 mil to the judicial branch is a small price to pay for 600 mil in savings…

        I don’t know if anyone caught that the may revision still includes the speed camera idea or the 13 mil reductions to trial courts on the promise of ccms saving labor. I think the folks in the sacramento courts might have something to say about the latter.

        Also it increases the court security fee to fund the recently formed AOC office of executive protection among other things. Do the AOC executives feel they need protection? Is this why employees are now randomly searched coming into the building?

      • Obi-Wan Kenobi

        It makes one wonder if those cohibas they share were rolled in Havana or Mendocino County…

      • WiseEmployee

        Wendy Darling,

        What was the Chief Justice’s one sentence order?

    • Chuck Horan

      Wise One, do you happen to have an electronic link to the information re: budget subcommittee actions you referred to? I’m having trouble locating that info. Thanks a million.

  36. Ray O'Light

    The Chief and the Governor are lame duck friends with benefits.

    Note to OGC: the AOC is severely vulnerable regarding its past and current contracting practices.

  37. JusticeCalifornia

  38. I’m no prude, but I can’t imagine being a whore. Excuse me, sex is not what I am refering to. This crap my friend, is THE world’s oldest profession! Makes me wanta hurl. Maybe the CJ’s response to the gov came on a pair of panties that look like an eye patch. But one redeeming point, this is the govs version of the budget, not what the legislature will do or approve.

  39. WiseEmployee

    Obi,

    What is the Office of Executive Protection? When were they created? What is the said purpose of this new entity?

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      The office of Emergency Response & Security is developing a special detail within its ranks starting last year.

      EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY
      JOB TITLE: SECURITY COORDINATOR – EXECUTIVE PROTECTION
      JOB REQUISITION: 3309
      LOCATION: SAN FRANCISCO, CA

      OVERVIEW
      The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) is accepting applications for a Security Coordinator specializing in executive protection, to be assigned to the Emergency Response and Security Unit (ERS) located in our San Francisco office.

      This position primarily plans, organizes, and implements executive security services for the Administrative Office of the Courts and other judicial branch agencies. This position also assists in recommending security measures and coordinating security programs and responses to threats to the courts, justices, and staff; and providing technical assistance to the trial courts on security-related issues.

      DEPARTMENT STATEMENT
      Under the direction of the Executive Office, the ERS Unit is committed to ensuring the safety of all employees, court personnel, and public through a comprehensive emergency planning and security program that seeks to provide the highest level of protection for individuals, facilities, and property of the AOC and all California courts.

      The ERS Unit provides the AOC and all court facilities with a comprehensive emergency plan and provides ongoing support to ensure constant preparedness for any emergency.
      In addition to emergency preparedness, the ERS Unit provides the AOC and all court facilities with continuous security support to include security assessments, detailed reports that provide recommendations for improved practices, investigating threats made against judges and other judicial officers, coordinating security standards with local sheriff and other security departments, and serving as a resource for ongoing security issues and concerns.
      RESPONSIBILITIES

      Drive executive team members, collects and delivers personnel as required;

      Respond to security and medical emergencies, travel statewide approximately 60% of the time, and work early morning, evening and weekend hours as necessary;

      Make arrangements for necessary security for special events and meetings, judicial officers, and judicial branch staff;

      Coordinate response to emergencies for the AOC and support court and or AOC personnel as required;

      Assists with internal investigations as required under the direction of the ERS Manager or Senior Manager;

      Assist in coordinating evaluations of judicial branch security needs;

      Implement statewide security programs for the judicial branch;

      Assist in developing security plans, crime prevention programs, and other necessary emergency response measures for judicial branch agencies;

      Recommend and coordinate security responses to threats to judicial branch staff, judicial officers, and the courts;

      Conduct training of security staff;

      Conduct a variety of studies and prepare reports as assigned;

      Act as liaison on security matters between the judicial branch and the California Highway Patrol (CHP), the Department of General Services, the Department of Justice, and local law enforcement agencies as assigned; and

      Perform first aid and CPR as necessary.

      • JusticeCalifornia

        A little paranoid, are we?

        lol.

        Or a cover to become big brother?

        Not so funny.

        Query– how is this position funded?

      • Obi-Wan Kenobi

        They want a post certificate with police experience. They’re hiring former police officers to fill the positions. These positions are funded by a court security fee, which also funds security in the courts. A fee that is about to increase.

        The paranoid part comes in randomly searching your own employees as they come in the building.

  40. Wendy Darling

    Wise Employee:

    As reported by Cheryl Miller in The Recorder, the Chief Justice met with the Governor on Tuesday, May 11th, in hopes of securing additional funding for the Judicial Branch in the upcoming “judicial budget deal;” See article at http://www.law.com.

    As reported by Jon Ortiz of the Sacramento Bee, that same day, Tuesday, May 11th, the State Supreme Court received what is described as an “unusual letter” that was hand-delivered on behalf of the Governor asking that the court use its authority to review a furlough case that the Schwarzenegger administration has twice lost, and for which the time for filing any further appeal by the Governor had expired.

    According to the article, the letter requested that although a Petition for Review had not been timely filed, that the Supreme Court use its authority “to order review on its own motion.”

    The same day that the State Supreme Court received this letter, Chief Justice Ronald George personally signed off on this one sentence order:
    The time for granting review on the court’s own motion is hearby extended to and including July 17, 2010.

    Here’s the link to the Sacramento Bee article: http://www.sacbee.com.

  41. Ray O'Light

    Whoever is fighting GAS on the furlough cases should file an emergency writ with the USSC. The Chief Justice cannot get away with bullshit like ignoring California rules of court for APPEALS that every attorney in the State of California must follow. What an asshole.

    JC: new U.S. attorney for the Northern District, pending confirmation. White collar crime is a speciality and what BHO is looking for in DOJ, under his administration. Good luck.

  42. Wendy Darling

    In case any of you didn’t catch it, you may want to read the posting up above from Concerned4U. and addressed to “Attention Judges of California”, dated May 14th, 2010 but apparently not actually posted above until today.

    And if you read the posting from Concerned4U and happen to wonder who the current Division Director and Assistant Director of the AOC’s Judicial Services Unit is, why that would be the very same current Director and Assistant Director of the AOC’s HR Division, Ernesto Fuentes and Kenneth Couch.

  43. Sounds like Bill V and Ron O are afraid of someone going postal. Beyond their fears, it irks me that taxpayer dollars are being spent on security details for the administration of the AOC. Pleezzee, how many department heads, court executives or for that matter judges have personal drivers and security? And judges get threats against them, some very serious. Give me a break. It is bad enough that appellate court justices get the CHP to drive for them, under the guise of security. Heck 99% of the public don’t even know or care who they are. Talk about inflated egos and waste of taxpayer dollars.

    • Ray O'Light

      If the AOC is worried about anyone’s safety, they are free to call the C.H.P. But to hire a security position that lists being a driver in the job description (car service) is another very bad P.R. move. The RAD’s and other key staff at the AOC are grossly overpaid, are greedily taking money away from other employees, and it’s questionable whether the expense of the regional offices is even justifiable in a budget crisis. If someone is worried for their safety, it may be because they are wildly unpopular due to their decisions and they have become a disbenefit to the branch.

      (and if it’s true, as rumored, that one or more of the RAD’s encourages their staff to pray … it’s simply another example of how the feds are going to come in and cite the AOC for multiple federal employment violations).

    • Ray O'Light

      PS, on the documentation front – I completely echo the advice of officer of the court JC.

      If you have a copy of an e-mail where a RAD or any other AOC manager or supervisor mentions “prayer” or “praying,” please print it and save it.

      • Ray O'Light

        Religious Discrimination And Employment Policies/Practices
        An employee cannot be forced to participate (or not participate) in a religious activity as a condition of employment.

  44. Statesboro Blues

    I was surprised to see that LA Superior Court published and mailed out their handsome Annual Report to all 58 courts this year, despite their budget woes. Would’ve thought it more prudent to just post one on their website…