As court employees and the public in general celebrate the official beginning of the AOC’s decision to close courts, I thought it would be a good idea to remind everyone of how we got here.
The judicial branch suffered a $360,809,000 million cut to its budget. The breakdown of the cut was $100 million imposed by the 2009 Budget Act, plus another $92.24 million cut that was a continuation of a cut the courts got in fiscal year 2008-2009, and another cut of $168.57 million proposed by the governor. Total reductions? $-360,809,000 million.
Now the AOC managed to bring that deficit down to $-190,126,592 through various cost cutting measures including one-time offsets, savings from the Voluntary Salary Waivers for the judges, security reduction, and increased court fees. That $-190,126,592 was then divided among the various court systems throughout California with the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego taking the biggest hit. A $-52,574,606 cut in the case of Los Angeles.
While the AOC was handing out these cuts to all of the counties to handle on their own, they continued to funnel funds into their favorite court software program called the Court Case Managment System. (CCMS) And it isn’t as if this was some big secret. Everyone who had some type of working relationship with the AOC knew that the AOC is adamant that they will not divert funding from the CCMS into other much needed areas….like say helping courts deal with their deficits. Bailouts. It’s good enough for banks. Courts? Not so much.
Last month the AOC put out a FAQ about CCMS in which they attempt to explain what CCMS is, what they hope it will accomplish, why they believe CCMS is a good idea, and how much it’ll cost taxpayers. There are two paragraphs in the FAQ that stand out to anyone who reads it. The following are taken directly from the document the AOC put out.
How much has the AOC invested in development of CCMS?
$394 million has been invested in CCMS through FY 08/09. This includes development, enhancements, and maintenance for CCMS-V2 and CCMS-V3. CCMS-V4 development costs (to date) are incorporated in this figure, as well as costs for the California Courts Technology Center (CCTC) and costs associated with the Data Exchange project. Deployment to Fresno, Sacramento, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, and San Joaquin counties is also included.
How much will it cost to deploy CCMS?
Based on the original plan, deployment was estimated at $1.2 billion through 2013 and includes deployment to all 58 courts. The current economic situation and changes to the budget and schedule will determine the final cost.
No, your eyes do not deceive you. The AOC has invested $394 million through FY 08/09 and they believe that deployment will cost $1.2 billion by 2013. $1.2 billion for the AOC’s new software that they hope when launched will be their version of the iPhone but for all we know could wind up being the AOC’s version of the deployment of Windows Vista. And we all know how swimmingly that went. Of course the FAQ says $394 million has been invested but we don’t even know what the breakdown is for each year since the project began. We don’t even know exactly how the $394 million was invested. Nothing is itemized in this FAQ put out by the AOC.
Not only that, who the heck is building the CCMS program to the tune of $394 million so far? How were the contractors for the CCMS program selected? More importantly, what were the original costs given by the contractor for the building and completion of CCMS?
And notice how the AOC tries to deflect any talk of delay of CCMS by claiming that,
The downstream impacts of delay are significant and could be as high as $240 million for a full year delay. This is due to the cascading effect on future activities, legacy systems that will need to be extended or replaced, potentially higher deployment vendor costs and numerous other factors. The longer deployment is delayed the greater the financial impact.
Really? $240 million for a full year delay? Says who? And why? Why would a delay cost $240 million? Again, nothing is itemized here. For all we know any delay in CCMS’ implementation may wind up costing the AOC something. But are we supposed to believe it’s going to be $240 million just because the AOC says so? Is it any wonder that court employees, unions, and a great number of judges doubt the AOC’s sincerity when they say that the court closures were inevitable when they throw figures around willy nilly with nothing to back it up?
And of course that $240 million claim does nothing to answer why the AOC believes that funding CCMS is more important than funding courts that are now suffering budget cuts that have resulted in court closures, furloughs, salary reductions, and layoffs. And those are just the negative effects on court staff. We’ve barely even discussed the negative impact on the general public that the court system is supposed to serve. Is access to justice not more important than CCMS? Apparently the AOC’s actions leads one to believe otherwise.
If you want to read the entire CCMS FAQ yourself, you may do so by downloading the document here. I’ve also uploaded the Trial Court Budget Allocations for FY 09/10 which you can access here.