Judicial Wars Discussion Thread

A discussion thread to discuss conflicts or differences of opinions between the AOC/Judicial Council and its critics from the judicial bench.  Discussions and comments about the AOC/Judicial Council and its supporters, as well as the Alliance of California Judges and the California Judges Association should be posted here.

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26 responses to “Judicial Wars Discussion Thread

  1. In case anyone had any illusions whatsoever about CJA (please do not confuse with ACJ) please see the below excerpts from the June 15 Recorder article. Like the newest appointments to the judicial council announced a few days ago (primarily retreads), it is business as usual.

    Cheryl Miller
    The Recorder
    June 15, 2010

    SACRAMENTO — Keith Davis, a judge in San Bernardino County Superior Court’s Rancho Cucamonga branch, was elected president of the California Judges Association today.
    Davis will be sworn in to a one-year term on Sept. 26. He will succeed outgoing President Michael Vicencia of Los Angeles County Superior Court.

    ………

    Davis will take the helm during difficult times for the state judiciary. Although Wednesday marks the last mandatory day of statewide courthouse closures, the judicial budget remains threatened by chronic state fiscal troubles. A renegade group of judges has challenged the CJA’s dominance by forming its own association. And tensions between trial court judges and branch leaders have flared over everything from administrative spending decisions to a billion-dollar computer system.

    ……

    “One of my goals is to continue our very good working relationship with the Judicial Council and the Administrative Office of the Courts and all of our other judicial branch partners,” Davis said after a CJA board meeting today in Sacramento. “I think that discussion and dialogue are very important, and I think obviously success is more likely to be achieved for the branch as a whole when all of us are pulling together in the same direction. And I certainly intend to do what I can to make that happen.”

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      How does this person get elected to this position? Does every member of the judiciary have a voice or is he elected by a committee?

      • Alliance Supporter

        Officers are elected by and from members of the sitting CJA Executive Board. These Board members in turn have been chosen (usually without dispute) by Nominating Committees chosen by previous Board Presidents. A self-perpetuating fen.

    • Dear Judge Horan:

      I certainly have no illusions about the CJA.

      CJA says it is the “voice of the judiciary” but I noticed that at the Mid-Year Conference this May the Chief Justice did not bother to attend and hear “the voice”. Our PJ did not attend; our Assistant PJ did not attend; out of the 17 members of our Executive Committee only one attended.

      The language used by our President Elect of the CJA ( I am a member) is typical of what I have been hearing for years from our local leaders up to and including the Chief Justice and members of the Judicial Council and the AOC. “Pulling together” is just another way of saying that we should “speak with one voice” (SWOV).

      I suspect that SWOV comes from John Carver’s “Policy Governance Model in Nonprofit Organizations” which is something that the Chief Justice and the Judicial Council have apparently bought into. Mr. Carver says that Boards of Directors of nonprofit organizations must speak with one voice. Dissent is expressed during the discussion period preceding a vote. A visit to Mr. Carver’s web site will be instructive and explain why the Judicial Council has voted the way it has voted for many years. I know that you looked at the history of the voting patterns of the Judicial Council and found very few dissenting votes.

      In order to SWOV it means , by necessity, the supressing of dissident voices. It means that those who do not agree with “the voice” should shut up. SWOV is a fraud because it pretends that there is “one voice” when everyone knows that there are numerous voices.

      I agree that internal disagreements within the judicial branch can undermine public confidence. I agree that inconsistent and dissenting voices within the judiciary should be avoided if this can be done without sacrifice of principle. However, I believe that to SWOV when there is really a diversity of opinion also undermines public confidence in the judiciary. The public knows we are not telling the truth. SWOV fools nobody but the fools.

      SWOV works when there is only one legitimate opinion. Examples would be that judges should not take bribes. Another would be that the AOC should be transparent and accountable. Everyone can agree on this. But what happens when there are several legitimate opinions but the leaders of the organization only embace one of those legitimate opinions? Because the Judicial Council SWOV they find it impossible to acknowledge other views with respect. Hence some of the bad behavior displayed by the members of the Judicial Council when they are questioned about their decisions.

      SWOV works in the military or in an organization such as a District Attorney’s office. In these organizations there can be very diverse opinions but once the commander or leader makes a decision it is expected that everyone will fall into line. SWOV cannot work with judges because we are not in the military or in the District Attorney’s office.. We are individually appointed and elected public officials.The Chief Justice and the Judicial Council are not our commanders or leaders except as provided by law. The failure of some to understand this basic concept has caused and is causing much mischief.

      The Legislature and the public can handle the truth. They can handle the truth that different opinions as to budget priorities and how this branch is to be governed illustrate that the choices we face as citizens in California are difficult, uncertain, and imperfect. SWOV , when there is legitimate dissent, treats the Legislature and the public as if they were unsophisticated schoolchildren.

      • Your points are excellent, Judge Maino, and I agree wholeheartedly. The council did in fact become “Carverized” about 10years ago, which led to a rewrite of the governance policies. On that occasion, of course, they passed those policies by vote of the council, in public, and passed followup rules in public, after public comment. This is contrasted with the situation last year where the governance policies were passed by a secret email vote of the council in utter contravention of the council’s own rules, which state that the council can ONLY act between meetings on matters of an emergent nature upon the call of the Chief, etc. etc. etc.
        The rules were then slid through without public comment, on the consent agenda. Very very untoward. But I digress. lol

        As to CJA, as far as I can tell they are focused on monetary issues for judges– judicial salary, judicial benefits, and the equalization of JRS I and II retirement systems. These are important matters to all judges, to be sure, but at CJA there is simply NO focus at all on branch governance issues. That’s fine, and it is the prerogative of that organization, as any other, to set its own priorities. Truly though, of late CJA leadership has been primarily a jumping off spot to the council or court of appeal. They are in NO sense leaders of the judiciary as to ANY non-pocketbook issue. They have morphed more and more into an appendage of the San Francisco power structure rather than an independent voice.

        Speaking solely for myself, as I always to unless otherwise noted, it was just sad to see the “ballot statements” of those running for leadership positions at CJA this year. With a few exceptions, the campaign seemed to turn on who among the candidates would be the best friend of the AOC. I believe that only one candidate even HINTED at concerns about the status quo. Certainly no candidate openly questioned or challenged either the AOC or Council on ANY point or position whatsoever.

        One candidate is reported to have recently remarked that we judges should “be down on our knees thanking the chief for what he’s done” or some such statement. A judge on his or her knees? No thanks, buddy, not this one. I much prefer being part of an organization that stands on its feet, both when praising our leaders, as well as when criticizing them.

      • Hi Judge Horan:

        Re CJA leadership being a jumping off point, I know not what course others may take but as for me … well, let’s just say that after these three years I’ve served on the CJA Executive Board I doubt you’ll see my name showing up on a short list for Judicial Branch leadership any time soon. Regardless, overall I’m fairly satisfied in trying to do my part as a Board member for CJA’s membership, the Branch and the State.

        Cheers,
        Tim Fall
        Judge, Yolo Superior Court

  2. What is this CJA guy (sorry Judge Fall…i mean judge 🙂 smoking? One can only assume that he must be sucking a portion of the CJ’s anatomy. Renegade judges? I am starting to feel like we are in Vichy France instead of the judicial branch. Maybe one day these folks who are sucking up (pun intended) to the temporary evil regime, will pay (and I hope more than having their hair shorn forcibly in public) . Pardon my French Judge Horan and my fellow bloggers.
    PS can we get spell check on this blog 🙂

  3. Courthouse News 06/18/10

    Sacramento’s Top Judge Holds Course in Opposing Dictate from Statewide Body
    By MARIA DINZEO

    (CN) – Sacramento’s head judge slammed California’s judicial leadership earlier this week over the way its costly statewide case management system has been implemented, blaming an Arizona server for a leak of confidential information that forced the Sacramento court to close its case files to the public for almost a week. “This would not have happened if we had our own server,” said Sacramento’s Presiding Judge Steve White. “The entirety of the problem is based on the configuration of the system and the Arizona server.”
    California’s project to link trial courts with each other throughout the state — estimated to cost well over a billion dollars — has been called a boondoggle by some trial judges who have strongly attacked its price-tag and functionality. The Sacramento judges have clashed repeatedly with the Judicial Council, the statewide governing body for the courts, over Sacramento’s intention to take control of its case information system by using a local server.
    In a letter sent last week, Presiding Judge White criticized William Vickrey, executive director of the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts, over a spokesman’s statement in a news article that seemed to fault the Sacramento court’s staff for the leak of confidential information.
    “The release of confidential information was entirely the result of actions by the AOC contractor, Deloitte, which did not even inform our court of the changes it made or the resulting problem,” White wrote. “We were left to make the discovery on our own. Yet anyone reading the AOC’s press is told that the problem lies with our court. This is false. It is unfair and it is wrong. Judges and staff on this court find this most offensive.”
    In an interview earlier this week, White said Vickrey has not responded independently to his letter, which also demanded an apology. White said the AOC’s haste to blame his staff suggests it is on the defensive about its expensive case management system.
    The most recent flare-up followed an order from the Judicial Council last month, directing White to “maintain the status quo” and remain on the Arizona server. White rejected that order, saying the council did not have the authority to dictate the way Sacramento’s courts manage their case information.
    White said the AOC has not pressed further on its demand that Sacramento put plans for a local server on hold, but representatives from the statewide body had visited his court to look at problems with the case management system. The system could work for his court, he said, if only the AOC would allow the court to unplug from the Arizona server, as courts in Ventura and Orange counties have done.
    White said Sacramento is moving forward with plans to host its own server in an effort to avoid future errors, though it may not be ready for a few months. “We’re doing exactly what we said we would,” White said. “We’re moving rapidly forward with setting up a server here.”

  4. Chuck Horan

    This is in response to my friend Judge Fall. (For some reason there is no reply box on some of the posts, including that one, so this will appear out of order.) Of course my comments about CJA leadership being a jumping-off point for career advancement are general only. I point, for example, to a president in recent years who was offered a council position in the midst of a branchwide battle with the council, which he accepted. The timing was, to say the least, horrible. I can cite other examples as well.

    Certainly Judge Fall does NOT, and never has, fallen into this category. Judge Fall, whom I have had the pleasure of meeting personally, is a wonderful example of a judge who serves for the sake of service and for the improvement of his organization and the judiciary. Judge Fall, as we all well know, also understands the centrality of the governance issues. Unfortunately, there are far too few in leadership positions who share his view.

    Judge Fall, my friend, you are A-1 and I’m proud of the fine service to our branch you have, and continue, to provide.
    CH

  5. Gee not only is the branch Vichy but now quasi-military. I agree Judge Horan, never, never on your knees to anyone. I also appreciate your observation that it is unfortunate that many judges are only concerned about financial issues. I too have noticed that all too frequently at PJ/CEO meetings and others. Lots of hot topics on the agenda (ok once in a while) and all the vocal judges want to talk about is the retirement issues or a pay increase. I certainly understand that judges in California are way underpaid and the disparity in judge’s retirement, but it is sad that that issue overrides everything else for them. Thank you our hero judges for working on the more important issues for the branch. And I do hope that one day you all get paid what you are worth for your service in the branch.

    • JusticeCalifornia

      Hi courtflea

      I tried to reply to you but my posts are now apparently being censored on this website.

      This happened with respect to a two-word reply (“I agree”) to Sunshine as well.

      How interesting. . . . .

    • JusticeCalifornia

      Hi courtflea I will try again– posted hereunder is my original reply to you, but I have changed one thing–instead of putting in a website address you can click and go to, I am simply going to refer to the website (maybe that was the problem?).

      As a preface, I want to say this– one of the great values of this website is that court employees, and former court employees, and others, and those like me, can tell judges and third branch leadership what we really think, and what is on our minds. This is valuable, because judges and top leadership statewide can get their fingers on the pulse of what is really happening in the “largest judiciary in the Western world”. Similarly, judges and court adminstrators and others can speak their minds– thereby letting other judges, non-judges and others, and top leadership know what you really think, and what is on your minds. It is a quite wonderful, unique, multi-way street. If the judges or anyone else wants to say: “hey JusticeCalifornia, you have crossed a line and here is why”– go for it, and I will appreciate that. If I say: “hey judges and top leadership, here is what I am dealing with, things are so bad I am going to champion elimination of judicial immunity until legitimate oversight measures are put in place” I think this provides fair warning that judges should consider and appreciate the frustration leading to that stance.

      But when legitimate comments about a topic are blocked, perhaps so this blog can “speak with one voice”, well, isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black? I absolutely, completely appreciate Judges Horan, Maino and Fall for commenting publicly, and I appreciate the ACJ as a whole for taking steps toward really positive changes in the CA judiciary. I, for one, will gracefully bow out of this and ALL conversations on this blog to keep this blog going and the judges participating. But, in all fairness, the “rules of the game” should be made clear, so those reading the blog know what they are getting. Is it SUBSTANTIALLY AND SUBSTANTIVELY filtered, or not?When Sunshine says we should be focusing on the November retention election and I agree– shouldn’t that be posted? Because then– the new and terrific information on this website will bring us (and me) back to the point that the battle for an improved CA judicial branch means a lot of different things, to a lot of different people, and must be fought and represented on many fronts–not just one.

      And when courtflea says our CA judges should be paid what they are worth, I should naturally be able to say what I tried to say this past weekend, to wit:

      “I have enjoyed lurker status and the new direction the blog has taken, but I have to chime in here.

      No offense to the judges, but courtflea, California judges are the number-one, highest-paid judges in the nation — even before receiving additional county funds. Check out the National Center for State Courts survey–

      [google National Center for State Courts Judicial Compensation]

      One thing Ron George has done is go for the money in his quest for absolute, unfettered, control. Money has always been a tool to obtain and maintain control. It has coercive power, and corrupting power, and retaliatory power. What everyone is learning is that money alone, without responsible judicial policy and administration, cannot buy the judicial branch all things the branch depends upon to justify its existence, authority and independence– namely third branch compliance with the law and ethical rules of conduct, adequate accountability and quality control, internal and external respect, and ultimately, public trust and confidence.

      Nor, as we are seeing, can money buy virtually absolute, unfettered control within the branch (something George was never supposed to have). For one thing, some people within the branch are not for sale, and for another, the public will not stand for it. Anyone who persists in thinking what is happening is a passing storm to be weathered, has his or her head buried in the sand.

      Similarly, anyone who thinks judges should be silently down on their knees, bowing down, eyes to the ground, thanking George for the money, so the “largest judiciary in the western world” can SWOV (George’s voice), should remember what happened to the Titanic.

      It is a pretty, sunny June day, and the iceberg is clearly visible, for all to see.”

      • Thank you JusticeCalifornia. This is a wonderful site and does what you wish it to do: a free exchange of ideas with lots of disagreement from time to time. But, let us not call each other or others”clowns”, “”shrill” and, amongst other terms, “uninformed” as has happened by some members of the JC and the AOC. Would it not be interesting to know what they call us in private?

        Judges pay: a hot topic for sure. I recently looked at my W-2 form for 1963 when I was a 1st Lt in the USMC: about $3600.00 for the year….and I am drinking more cheap wine now than then. Seriously, we are well paid and under the terrible economic circumstances in 2010 we should forget about more money and benefits.
        As an aside: if the AOC had not embarked on this unfunded CCMS system there would have been sufficient funds to make JRS 2 benefits similar to JRS 1 benefits. I always felt that ( even though I was a JRS 1 person) that agreeing to have better benefits than future judges was the wrong thing to do. But that is not the reason for this blog….it is to hold the Chief Justice, the JC, and the AOC accountable to the taxpayers in financial matters and to demand that they follow the law as it relates to the relationship between the JC/AOC and the individual courts and judges.

      • JusticeCalifornia

        Thank you, Judge Maino. I appreciate and respect your honesty, experience, and willingness to listen to other points of view.

  6. what the hell is going on? Jack, Doug, all those jerks are really annoying and lying. Find the truth if you want this to be a respectable blog.

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      Huh? Apparently you’re the only one who may be aware of what you’re talking about. Do you care to expand on your remarks and those you’re identifying?

  7. Betty, did we miss something? who is Jack and Doug and the other “jerks” you are aluding to. Many of us do know the truth. What truth are you referring to? Please clue us in!

  8. CJ/Judge Maino, I agree during these economic times, that pay issues for judges should be set aside. However, although CA judges are some of the highest paid, and SOME (certainly not all and some counties in exchange for doing so such as in LA get fee revenue that could arguably go to the courts) counties give judges additional benefits/pay, Judges in metropolitan areas especially, do not make enough to compete with law firms, ADR outfits, etc. I firmly believe that in order to attract the best and the brightest, the pay for judges must eventually be increased.
    CJ keep up the comments. I don’t think this blog is being screened other than for other website addresses perhaps.

  9. Does anyone know whether CJ George and Ming Ching have made any statement expressing their intentions regarding seeking retention?

  10. Michael Paul is no longer employed with the AOC as of today.

  11. Did Michael Paul finally have enough of their BS and take another job? From what I hear, the AOC doesn’t have another employee with his level of skills, and that it will take at least 3 people to replace him.

    I’m surprised he didn’t jump from the sinking ship earlier, honestly.

    Surely the AOC wasn’t stupid enough to actually fire him on the tailcoat of him recently filing a tax payer lawsuit against them???

    • Wendy Darling

      No, they really were that stupid; the AOC fired him.

      After all, thanks to a federal judge, it’s legally been declared open season on AOC employees, and Fuentes, Couch, Vickrey, Overholt, with the the Chief Justice leading the way, enjoy nothing more than adding another casualty notch on their AOC employee hunting license.

      “The AOC remains committed to the highest ethical standards of public service.” It is glaringly apparent that no “ethical standards of public service” actually exist within AOC leadership, the California Judicial Branch, and the office of the Chief Justice.

      And it’s also glaringly apparent that Sacramento, including the Attorney General’s office, could care less.

      No on George.

  12. ConcernedReConsolidation

    From Mike McKee’s Recorder article:

    “If I thought the ranks of the judiciary were in disarray,” he said, “that would be an incentive for me to stay.”

    George referred to dissent in the ranks as “minor problems” that had no effect on his decision. “That would be like canceling a trip to Yosemite because you heard there were ants on the trail,” he said.

  13. If the disarray was caused by the Chief’s lack of appropriate administrative management and leadership skills, which I believe is clearly the case, would there really be any incentive to stay? This would especially be true if bad publicity and/or possible scandal was on the horizon. I see it more like a person running away from a house on fire in a self-protection mode.

    As wonderful as the news is, the timing of his announcement is suspect in my book as to the true motivating factors considering other events that have transpired recently, of which not all are publicly known…..yet.

    Any leader who believes that dissention is automatically a “problem” is probably the same type of person who believes anyone disagreeing with him is “shrill and uninformed”, no? More times than not, dissention is a movement towards solution. In this regard, his failure to see both sides of the coin speaks volumes to me. Again, I suggest it’s a position taken merely for self-protection.

    On a different note: I asked earlier here, but didn’t get a response, does anyone know if the Judicial Council is meeting today or tomorrow per their original schedule prepared 2/9/10? I see no agenda notice posted. Assuming these meetings are open to the public, surely they wouldn’t hold it prior to giving the appropriate 7 day notice? Or….then again……???

  14. I guess the SOB has to get his last swipes in at his fellow judges before he leaves. But the bottom line is no matter how self inflated his ego is, he ran from the fight like a yeller dog with its tail between its legs. The BS he is spouting is just to cover that appearance up.

  15. JusticeCalifornia

    I was momentarily feeling a tad sorry for the Chief yesterday, while basking in surreal reality that one major judicial reform goal of mine had been suddenly realized after almost four long years (ever since I attended the 11/2006 Judicial Summit).

    Leaders lead by example. Reading George’s truly petty and disrespectful comment (the latest of many) about judicial officers who disagree with him reminded me of a) why the branch is in such disarray; and b) why it was worth it for me to spend four years on this.

    Ron George, shame on you. Please behave like a grown up, and do remember you are still bound by the Code of Judicial Ethics.

    None of us should waste a moment looking back. We must move forward, and make sure this never happens again.

    I hope everyone –especially the ACJ– is thinking long and hard about who they think would be a good choice for new CJ– please share if you can.

    The future of the branch is NOW. Let’s do everything we can to make it a bright one.