Domino Watch: Alameda County Superior Court

The followers of Themis in Alameda Superior Court (ASC) have alerted me that layoff letters have been sent to court employees. The details are still a bit sketchy but it appears that ASC may be following San Francisco Superior Court’s lead in restructuring its civil division.  Initial reports are that those affected are clerks, court reporters, and court supervisors.  Total number of layoff notices sent is unclear at this time.

More news and details to come as they develop. Of course, if you know more about this, leave a comment.


Domino Watch: Tehama County Superior Court

The news from Tehama is not good.

“We did not even know exactly what our budget would be until nearly a month after the beginning of the fiscal year,” Scheuler said. “Now that we know that figure, we are certain that we will experience a massive deficit without even further spending cuts.”

Employees will be asked to make further concessions, and layoffs have not been ruled out, he said. Labor negotiations will open in August, and after they are completed the court will have a better idea of the necessary changes that need to be made to meet the budget crisis.

Greece Is To San Francisco What Portugal Is To…

Bill Girdner of Courthouse News Service totally understands the possible consequences of the Judicial Council’s choice to stay the course while ignoring the cries for help from county courts up and down California.

San Francisco’s court could be compared to Greece, the first of the dominos to tumble.

“San Francisco may have been the first trial court to fall,” San Francisco’s presiding judge, Katherine Feinstein, told the Judicial Council last week. “But I know that others are soon to follow, and you know that too.”

So which one is next.

Which court will be California’s Portugal, the next one that has to take radical measures such as closing courtrooms and laying off hundreds of staff.

Maybe Ventura fits that bill.

And although Mr. Girdner names Ventura as a possible candidate to become Portugal or Spain, I can think of many other counties that would be up for the running.

Judge Feinstein was spot on to say that San Francisco would only be the first to fall with others “soon to follow.” Now it’s going to be a favorite pastime for court employees to take bets on which court will follow San Francisco down the rabbit hole to the AOC and Judicial Council’s mad Wonderland.

JC Appoints Ronald Overholt to Replace William Vickrey

During last Friday’s meeting in San Fracisco, the Judicial Council chose Ronald G. Overholt, currently Chief Deputy Director of the Courts, to be the interim successor to William C. Vickrey who is stepping down from his post as

In a press release issued by the AOC, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye had this to say about Ron’s appointment:

“With this appointment, the Judicial Council is ensuring an integrated transition of leadership at the Administrative Office of the Courts and the continuity of excellence in the administration of statewide courts.”

Hmm..I think there are a lot of people out there who would beg to differ, Chief. Instead of “continuity of excellence” some would argue it’s a continuity of the same old song and dance of appointing diehard bureaucrats who continue to push a reality that has nothing to do with what is going on in California’s courts.

Judge David Lampe of the Alliance of California Judges had this to say about the appointment:

Kern Superior Court Judge David Lampe, serving as a spokesperson for the Alliance of California Judges yesterday expressed some concern that Overholt “has been closely tied to AOC policies in the past,” but emphasized that the group’s criticisms of existing branch management dealt with “structural issues,” and “has nothing to do with personalities or individuals.”

Lampe predicted that “whoever is ultimately chosen as the new director will undoubtedly be required to oversee a significant dismantling of the Administrative Office of the Courts,” and is “going to have to be dealing with changes,” such as the direct funding of trial courts by the Legislature proposed in AB 1208.

Well, all I can say is, Ron, you’re going to be in for an incredible term. And I believe you should heed the advice given by the lady below.

Court News Roundup and Open Thread

All eyes have been on San Francisco but let’s not forget San Joaquin County.

“San Joaquin County is the number one most consistently underfunded court system by the state,” said Judge Roger Ross.

“We’ve been scraping by for years with what we have and we’re just now down to the point where nothing is left but to close courtrooms.”

And it seems Napa County isn’t immune either.

“Unfortunately, these latest severe budget cuts will most likely result in the delays and lower level of service that we have worked so hard to avoid,” said Diane Price, presiding judge for the Superior Court of Napa County.

“The adage that ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ is very true and we will continue to take all reasonable steps possible to minimize the impact on our community’s access to justice services,” she said before the vote. “We understand that the court must function within the reality of the current economic climate. However, while it is too soon to know the specifics, there will certainly be negative consequences to our local justice system.”

KQED Forum host Dave Iverson looks at the negative result of the legislature’s move to slash the judicial budgets with guests Justice Cantil-Sakauye, Santa Clara Judge Brian Walsh, professor of law Gerald Uelmen,
Mary Ann Gilliard of Sacramento County Superior Court and director of the Alliance of California Judges and Scott Graham, editor-in-chief of The Recorder.

And the LA Times reports on the Judicial Council’s recent meeting.

The Judicial Council, the court’s governing body, which consists primarily of judges and court officials appointed by the chief justice, approved cuts of $350 million from a statewide court budget of $1.5 billion. Council members listened without comment while a parade of judges and court employees pleaded for more money and warned that democracy itself was in danger.

Interview with Judge Katherine Feinstein

“San Francisco Superior Court Judge Katherine Feinstein speaks with Belva Davis about the fiscal crisis in the courts as the system faces $350 million in budget cuts and prepares for deep cuts to staff and services.”

The Personal and Financial Impact of Layoffs and Closure of Courtrooms

Ken Garcia of the San Francisco Examiner writes about both the financial and personal impact of the San Francisco Superior Court laying of hundreds of employees and shuttering courtrooms.

The personal:

“This building is in quite a state of distress,” said Patty Dowling, a court reporter for 28 years at the Hall of Justice who was one of the lucky ones to escape a pink slip. “Most of us spend their entire careers in the courthouse and we all know each other, so you can imagine why it’s been so traumatic.”

The financial:

Now that San Francisco has cut 200 judicial jobs, perhaps the AOC would be kind enough to offer some of them employment helping to close the black hole otherwise known as the California Court Case Management System, into which more than $1 billion in tax dollars have been dumped over the years, with almost nothing to show for it.

You can read the entire article here.