Naming Justice George’s Successor

By now everyone has heard the news that King Chief Justice Ronald George will be retiring January. Now the guessing game of whom the Governator will appoint has begun. So far the one name that keeps coming up is that of Justice Carol Corrigan who was appointed to the state supreme court by the Governator himself.

Here’s a rundown of the process for appointing George’s sucessor courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Naming a successor

The process of appointing Chief Justice Ronald George’s successor:

Candidate chosen: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger must choose a candidate by Sept. 15, after a confidential review by the State Bar’s Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation.

Confirmation: The candidate will seek confirmation from the Commission on Judicial Appointments, consisting of George, Attorney General Jerry Brown and appeals court Justice Joan Dempsey Klein of Los Angeles, the state’s senior presiding appellate jurist.

Election: If confirmed, the candidate will go on the Nov. 2 ballot for a 12-year term beginning in January, when George’s term expires.

Justice promoted: If Schwarzenegger chooses a current justice to be chief justice, he would nominate that justice’s successor, who would go through the same confirmation process.

Justice Ron George Announces Retirement

Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 14, 2010

(07-14) 13:21 PDT SAN FRANCISCO — California Chief Justice Ronald George, a judge for 38 years and author of the 2008 ruling that briefly legalized same-sex marriage in the state, said today he will not seek re-election in November and will retire from the bench in January.

George, 70, was appointed to the state Supreme Court in 1991 by Gov. Pete Wilson, who then named him chief justice five years later. George won a new 12-year term in 1998 despite opposition by anti-abortion groups because of his ruling overturning a state law that required parental consent for minors’ abortions.

Some opponents of same-sex marriage had discussed mounting a campaign against George after he wrote the 4-3 ruling in May 2008 striking down state laws that defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman. He said the laws discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation and violated gays’ and lesbians’ fundamental right to marry the partner of their choice.

Voters overturned the ruling by passing Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment, in November 2008. George wrote the court’s 6-1 ruling in May 2009 that upheld Prop. 8 while criticizing rules that make it easy to qualify and enact initiatives affecting basic rights.

His announcement today came as a surprise. He had given several interviews in which he indicated he would seek a new term in November.

In a statement, George said he had decided that “now is the right time – while I am still at the top of my game – to leave while the proverbial music still plays and return to private life.”

He said he was making the announcement in time for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who also leaves office in January, to nominate a successor.

George, a former deputy state attorney general, was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court by Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1972. He was promoted to the Superior Court by Gov. Jerry Brown in 1977 and to a state appeals court by Gov. George Deukmejian in 1987.

AOC Employee Alleges “Waste and Abuse”

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Millions of tax dollars are being wasted on court construction and maintenance projects, an employee of the administrative arm of California’s judicial branch claims in Superior Court. Michael Paul claims that his complaints about “a cover-up of fraud, waste and abuse happening within the judicial branch” fell on deaf ears.

Paul, a senior technical analyst for the Administrative Office of the Courts, claims the AOC hired unlicensed contractors to update and repair a Riverside courthouse’s computer-based electrical system and overpaid them hundreds of dollars.

The seven contractors named in his complaint include Jacobs Management Co., Jacobs Facilities and American Building Management.

Paul claims that from December 2007 to July 2009, he also questioned contractors who charged, and were paid, $1,000 per square foot to build courthouses. He claims the AOC facilities management team that supervised the projects ignored his emails. Paul claims that he finally received a response in 2009 from Jerry Pfab of the Office of the Court and Management, “demanding that he cease and desist from telling others about the unlicensed contractors who were overcharging.”

Click here to read more.

Discussion Thread for AOC Employees

An open discussion thread for AOC employees who wish to discuss and share the latest news from deep within the Star Destroyer aka AOC headquarters.  Also a discussion thread for all topics related to AOC employees including upcoming legislation to bring AOC employees under the coverage of whistleblower laws.

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.

CCMS Discussion Thread

A discussion thread for all things related to the California Administrative Office of the Courts’ attempts to implement a state-wide computer system for all California superior courts.

Court Closures: And Then There Was One

It’s the last court closure that California courts will see for some time.  So, was it worth it all?  Did the AOC get everything it expected out of it?  Or does the fact that we aren’t seeing a repeat of court closures in the next fiscal year simply an indication that the AOC got the message that court closures were incredibly unpopular with the public?  Share your thoughts on the whole business in the comments section.

AOC Settles Lawsuit with Whistleblower

The AOC appears to have settled a lawsuit brought against it by former AOC employee and whistleblower Jack Urquhart.

From the Daily Journal:

The Administrative Office of the Courts will pay more than $53,000 to settle a suit brought by a former employee who claimed he was forced out his job after alerting reporters to the costs of a 2009 judicial conference.

Jack Urquhart, who retired from his analyst job of 11 years in December 2009, will receive $33,782 to drop his lawsuit and to cover the costs of a private mediator, the AOC announced in a press release Tuesday. The AOC will also pay $20,000 to Urquhart’s lawyers with the San Francisco firm of Moss & Hough.

AOC Watcher readers will remember that Mr. Urquhart became a catalyst that inspired some of the most vocal opposition and criticism the AOC and Judicial Council has ever faced when he revealed to reporters of the $80,000 that the AOC spent for a Judicial Council conference in San Francisco last year. After being forced to resign for his actions, actions that many believe were honorable, Mr. Urquhart eventually filed a lawsuit against the AOC. The actions that AOC took against Urquhart inspired legislators to draw up legislation that will ensure that AOC and court employees are covered by current whistleblower laws. That legislation is still pending in Sacramento.

But anyone who thinks that settlement of the case means the AOC was in the wrong, would be surprised to know that the settlement “is not an admission of wrongdoing.”

The nine-page settlement document says the agreement is not an admission of wrongdoing by the AOC.

“We are pleased that this matter has been resolved amicably,” Mary Roberts, general counsel for the AOC, said in a prepared statement that was approved by both parties. “The AOC remains committed to the highest ethical standards of public service. We respect and value the unique talents that each of our employees contributes to advancing the Judicial Council’s goal of improving access to justice in California.”

San Francisco Superior Court Lays Off Layoff Notices

San Francisco Superior Court employees got a bit of good news late this afternoon when current CEO Claire Williams sent out an email announcing that layoffs would not be happening. In fact, my followers of Themis in SF Superior tell me that the court planned on beginning on passing out layoff notices beginning tomorrow.

Here’s a bit from the email that Ms. Williams sent out.

Last week we received positive news on two fronts in Sacramento. On Friday Governor Schwarzenegger announced his revised budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The governor’s budget restored $100 million in state funding for the judicial branch. The other new budget information we have is that the AOC is close to wrapping up negotiations with key state lawmakers on a revenue package that would deliver $230 million to the judicial branch. Between the governor’s revised budget and the new judicial branch funding package from the legislature, we have enough confidence now in the proposals that leads us to the decision not to issue layoff notices as planned this week.

While it is true that the uncertainty over the ultimate outcome of these solutions remains, we are proceeding with the benefit of the best information available to us from the AOC. It is essential over the subsequent weeks that judicial branch leaders continue to work with the governor, state lawmakers, justice partners and other stakeholders to secure the passage of these funding solutions for the courts.

Judicial Wars: Sacramento Superior Goes Unplugged

Seems Sacramento Superior Court is not messing around when it comes to the issue of the continued use of the AOC’s troubled CCMS software program. In this morning’s Daily Journal report Cheryl Miller details the argument that’s broken out between the AOC and Sacramento Superior.

The argument all comes down to this. Whether individual courts have the right to determine what’s right for their own courts.

From the Daily Journal article:

At a public event last month , Sacramento court leaders announced that they would disconnect their hardware from CCMS’ Arizona-based vendor server so they could coordinate fixes to the system locally. Courts in Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange counties already house their own servers.

After the announcement, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of the Courts said that while the branch preferred that all courts use the central server, Sacramento could choose to leave. But in a May 11 letter (.pdf) to White, executive and planning committee Chairman Richard Huffman, a justice on the Fourth District Court of Appeal, ordered the court not to spend any money on new computer equipment or staff for the system move. He also directed the AOC to work with the court on its concerns and report back to the Judicial Council.

“The council should have the opportunity to consider and respond to the court’s concerns before the Court takes action to effect any transfer,” Huffman wrote.

Huffman cited Rule of Court 10.11(a) in issuing the committee’s “direction.”

White said he and other Sacramento judges “do not agree that there is any rule of court that stands for that proposition.” State law is clear that local judges run local courts, he said.

“We don’t have an objection to CCMS,” White said. “What we want … is to simply be treated the same way as San Diego and Orange County and Los Angeles already have been, which is to host their own database,” he said. “I do not intend to have us singled out by the AOC.”