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Correspondence

July 07, 2016
Amicus Brief on Behalf of the Alliance

February 16, 2016
In Memory of Hon. Loren McMaster, Founding Alliance Director

February 09, 2016
Futures Commission Comes Out of the Dark for Limited Public Comment

February 02, 2016
Alliance of California Judges Response to Futures Commission "Concepts"

January 25, 2016
Futures Commission Cloudy:Try Again Later

November 18, 2015
Attempted Power Grab Unveiled

November 09, 2015
AOC Will Stay Put--Ignores SEC and State Auditor

November 02, 2015
Vocal Trial Court Advocates Dumped From Key Committee

October 13, 2015
Judge Fisher Retires; Two New Directors Join Alliance Board

August 06, 2015
Dan Walters' Views on Controversial Use of Judges' Email Addresses

August 05, 2015
Former AOC Executive's Use of Judges' Email Prompts Concerns

July 02, 2015
Judicial Council's "Urgent" Traffic Rule Is Too Little, Too Late

June 19, 2015
Judicial Council Committee Abandons Proposed Rule Change

May 21, 2015
Key Judicial Council Committee Slams AOC Sanctioned Power Grab

May 19, 2015
Judicial Council Power Grab Threatens Its Most Transparent Committee

April 22, 2015
Top AOC Official Leaving

April 20, 2015
State Court Funds Drying Up

April 17, 2015
Alliance Backs Bill for Court Reporters in Key Cases

April 15, 2015
Yes We Can Implement the State Auditor's Recommendations

March 25, 2015
The Alliance Responds to the Chief Justice's State of the Judiciary Address

March 12, 2015
KEY LEGISLATOR TO AOC: WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO WITH THAT MONEY?

March 03, 2015
The Plumas/Sierra Regional Storage Shed

February 24, 2015
Judicial Council takes little action in response to audit

February 17, 2015
How's that open meeting rule working for you?

February 11, 2015
More Unaccountability from the Accountability Committee

February 02, 2015
The Backstory: How AOC Salaries Got Out of Whack

January 12, 2015
Dan Walters: Independent Audits "Fully Acquit" Alliance Judges

January 09, 2015
DAN WALTERS: THE ALLIANCE OF CALIFORNIA JUDGES WAS RIGHT

January 08, 2015
Time for a Change

January 07, 2015
State Auditor Confirms Failure of Judicial Council Management

September 25, 2014
Save the Date!

August 21, 2014
Powerful Committee Opens Doors Only to Close Them Again

July 28, 2014
Fuentes Declaration

July 28, 2014
Negley Summary Judgement

July 28, 2014
Are the AOC and JC really the same?

July 23, 2014
Does the Rules Committee Follow the Rules?

July 01, 2014
Alliance of California Judge's Responds to Resignation of Administrative Director Steven Jahr

June 30, 2014
"AOC" Name to be Eliminated; Judicial Council Accepts Direct Responsibility for Audit Outcome

June 18, 2014
Trial Court Funding Failure

June 09, 2014
AOC Efficiency?

May 16, 2014
List of Endorsements

April 23, 2014
Article on Long Beach Courthouse

April 22, 2014
Judicial Education Conference Certificate

April 16, 2014
News About Public Access

April 09, 2014
AOC Priorities Are Not Those of the Courts

April 03, 2014
Openness and Public Access

April 01, 2014
Trial Court Trust Fund Shortfall

March 17, 2014
AOC's Revenue Projections Off by $70 Million

March 13, 2014
Audit of AOC Unanimously Approved

March 12, 2014
AOC's Math Does Not Add Up--Time to Audit

March 12, 2014
AOC's Math Does Not Add Up--Time to Audit

March 10, 2014
AOC CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER SUBMITS TRAVEL EXPENSE CLAIMS FOR JOB IN SAN FRANCISCO

March 05, 2014
AUDIT VOTE DELAYED DUE TO ILLNESS

March 03, 2014
TROUBLING ANSWERS FROM THE AOC

February 28, 2014
AND THIS IS WHY WE NEED COURT REPORTERS

February 18, 2014
Myth vs. Fact-- The Case for an Audit

February 13, 2014
Alliance Obtains AOC Audit Request by Assembly Member Jones-Sawyer

February 03, 2014
Retreads and Denial -- A Strange Way to Restore Credibility

January 27, 2014
Alliance Asks for Audit to Restore Trust

January 21, 2014
Letter

January 21, 2014
Mallano v State

December 17, 2013
Judicial Council fails to Act on Open Meetings Rule

December 12, 2013
Chief Justice Meets With Reporters for Year-End Sum of Plans, Wishes

December 11, 2013
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE SEC REPORT?

December 06, 2013
"Transparency" and AOC Pay Raises

November 21, 2013
Alliance Submits Comment to New Proposed Open Meetings Rule

November 18, 2013
Is the New Open Meeting Rule Open?

November 14, 2013
George admits he purposely intimidated CJA on proposal to democratize Judicial Council

November 12, 2013
Another View on Centralization

November 07, 2013
Ex Chief Justice Lashes Out at Former AOC Director; Denies Responsibility for IT Disaster

October 23, 2013
Recent Dan Walters Column

October 11, 2013
CCMS - California's Continuing National Embarrassment

September 26, 2013
31 Courtrooms in Long Beach cost $2.3 billion over 35 years

September 18, 2013
Happy Birthday to the Alliance

September 10, 2013
Conference Agenda

August 29, 2013
AOC June 2013

August 29, 2013
Chief Justice Hands Out Pay Raises

August 29, 2013
AOC Pay Raises Hurt Courts

August 29, 2013
More Fallout From AOC Raises

July 31, 2013
AOC's Proposed Wish List Excludes Additional Trial Court Staffing, Includes Additional AOC Staffing

July 23, 2013
AOC Reveals the Salary for the Administrative Director of the Courts

July 22, 2013
Mark Your Calendars!

July 16, 2013
Which is it: Hiding Things or Just Incompetent?

July 10, 2013
Can We Get a Straight Answer?
July 10, 2013

Dear Members and Others:

On the heels of the former Chief Justice's retirement, our branch leaders, including the current Chief Justice, asked for time to change the operations of the Judicial Council and the AOC. We were hopeful that the new regime would embrace and implement measures to ensure greater accountability and transparency. Unfortunately, it has become clear that the new regime is like the old regime in far too many respects.

We have documented many of these continued failures of leadership, too many to list here. Today we write about a troubling practice of our branch leaders that appears to be getting worse over time: the use of a Rule of Court to obfuscate and refuse to make available public records which reveal how public funds are being spent. We cannot discover and call attention to wasteful spending if our court leaders continue to hide the records that may reveal it. A recent example is illustrative.

In April Alliance director Judge Kevin McCormick requested a list of the current active contracts from the AOC. The AOC compiled this list previously and made it available to those who sought it, including judges and public employee associations. Instead, the AOC emailed to Judge McCormick approximately 400 pages of raw data, asserting that they do not maintain such a list in the regular course of business. On June 10, AOC staff member Chad Finke wrote to Judge McCormick in part:

    "... as reported by Justice Douglas Miller at the Judicial Council's October 2011 business meeting, the council directed AOC staff going forward from that date to comply strictly with the requirement of rule 10.500 and not to exceed those requirements in responding to requests made under this rule."

Mr. Finke went on to state:

    "Here, because we do not compile or assemble the requested data in the requested form for the AOC's own use or for provision to other agencies, Judge Jahr has once again confirmed that the council's October 2011 directive prevents us from running a custom update for you." (Emphasis added.)

Judge McCormick then undertook an analysis of the voluminous "document dump" provided by the AOC, which raised a number of red flags concerning expenditures related to hotel stays. On May 31, Judge McCormick wrote to the Administrative Director of the Courts and staff member Finke:

   "Rather than simply providing the "Active Contracts" as previously done you have sent me approximately 400 pages of raw data. I am again requesting you provide the "Active Contracts" information which you can easily generate in the form previously provided."

Judge McCormick went on to add:

   "In addition, the voluminous documents you did provide contained numerous charges I have interest in, but for now I am requesting additional information about hotel expenses. Hotel charges for the year 2010 as reflected in the documents provided total approximately $319,989. Hotel charges in 2011 totaled $274,233 and hotel expenses for 2012 were $911,950."

Judge McCormick then requested documentation for these charges, as well as what they were incurred for such as seminars or educational conferences, the names of staff and participants that may have attended them, and if not for a conference or seminar, any reimbursements that may have been paid for those stays.

Judge McCormick observed: "It is of note that the documentation reflects over a 300% increase by the AOC and Judicial Council on what many would describe as discretionary spending at the same time court closures, layoffs and reduced hours at many of our courts were taking place."

So, how did the new and improved AOC respond to this request from a judge? Rather than provide a responsive answer, AOC staff member Chad Finke responded on June 10:

   "...we need to know which of the voluminous judicial administrative records we have provided to you over the past year support those figures and where those figures appear and/or how they were calculated. Once you provide that information, we will be able to evaluate that portion of your request and respond as required under rule 10.500."

In other words: "Judge McCormick, show us the math you used on the non-responsive documents we provided and then we will see if you are entitled to anything further...but don't hold your breath."

Is this the new face of a reformed AOC? Are we to sit by quietly and simply accept that the public's money is being spent prudently when we know from past experiences, as well as the Chief Justice's own Strategic Evaluation Committee, that this is a bureaucracy run amok? Is there any doubt why the AOC would resist an audit of its functions as it did recently, citing the cost as a reason not to be audited even while a number of local courts were being audited at their own expense?

The Alliance will not accept business as usual at the AOC, nor will we be deterred by persistent refusals to accept oversight. We will keep you informed as we persist in seeking the information needed to stop wasteful bureaucratic spending at the expense of the trial courts and the credibility of the judicial branch.

Directors, Alliance of California Judges

July 03, 2013
Judicial Council Again Opposes Reform

July 03, 2013
Memo

July 03, 2013
Chief Justice Memo

June 20, 2013
Budget Increase Will Not Stop Court Closures

May 15, 2013
Transparent as an Iron Curtain
May 6, 2013

Dear Members and Others,

First, we apologize for the length of this communication. We deem it necessary, however, to place in context what has become the standard operating procedure by branch leaders to refuse to disclose public information. In particular, reasonable requests for information from judges associated with the Alliance have been treated in a manner that directly contradicts their claims of a new era of greater transparency.

Like many of you we were hopeful that a new day would dawn upon the judicial branch with a change in leadership. For two solid years we were lectured to give the new regime "a chance." During those two years we were told by branch leaders there would be a new paradigm wherein decisions would be made in a more transparent way, that input from all would be welcome, and that substantive changes would result in a Judicial Council committed to properly overseeing the vast Administrative Office of the Courts in an accountable and transparent manner.

To support these claims, a survey was commissioned by the then new Chief Justice which sought the input of all judges and justices on what was ailing the branch. The Chief Justice told media sources that she read every judge's comments and, although she declined to make them public, numerous courts provided the media with what their judges had said in their surveys.

Subsequent to that survey, which revealed widespread dissatisfaction with the AOC and its purported overseer, the Judicial Council, the Chief Justice created a Strategic Evaluation Committee tasked with issuing a report that would be, in her words, "the Bible" for reorganizing and downsizing the central bureaucracy with an eye towards greater transparency and accountability of the Council and AOC.

These actions did not take place in a vacuum. In fact, it took legislative branch pressure in the form of a scathing audit by the State Auditor of the failed half a billion dollar CCMS project, the introduction of legislation sponsored by the Alliance of California Judges to rein in the out of control spending by central planners, disclosures of pension spikes for the top 30 paid AOC staffers, the uncovering of a telecommuting policy that allowed an AOC lawyer to live and work in Switzerland, the exposure of costly and wasteful maintenance and construction projects, including the now infamous "gum removal" project that cost in excess of $8,000 dollars, the embarrassing disclosure of $200 light bulb replacements and the one-sided "public/private" deal to build a courthouse in Long Beach which has put a halt to at least 11 critical building projects because of its over-the-top long term costs.

Please know that virtually every one of the aforementioned boondoggles would not have been uncovered without the tenacity and courage of the media, legislature, the State Auditor and the Alliance of California Judges. In each instance the new regime cried foul and refused to take responsibility for its actions. Our leaders, citing the separation of powers, angrily reacted that legislators had no right to demand that former AOC director William Vickrey be fired over his mismanagement of this state's most costly failed computer project. In fact, the new regime responded by renaming the Judicial Council's meeting room after this publicly disgraced employee.

Legislators who supported the Alliance backed bill, AB 1208, were accused of being uninformed and dishonest in a video which featured the Chief Justice. The respected State Auditor was also verbally attacked and her character impugned by the chair of the Council's CCMS Committee, who first pronounced that not all of the Auditor's recommendations would be implemented and then, within 48 hours, changed course to proclaim that all findings would be acted upon. That same committee chairman was recently praised by name for work he did on CCMS during the Chief Justice's State of the Judiciary Speech which she gave to a combined session of the State Assembly and Senate. When the Chief Justice received the report from her handpicked Strategic Evaluation Committee, her first response was to tape a video message to AOC staff directing them to point out errors in what can only be described as a devastating indictment of AOC mismanagement and a failure of the Judicial Council to oversee its operations. Wow.

Obtaining information from the new regime has not only been difficult for the Alliance but has been documented by others, most recently the Chief Justice's own Strategic Evaluation Committee, the respected State Auditor, and members of the media.

Which brings us to the following disturbing actions by the same branch leaders who on a regular basis tout transparency and accountability. Over the last year, efforts by the Alliance to obtain public records from the AOC have been routinely ignored, denied, delayed, and in many instances forwarded to the Council's Chairman of the Rules and Procedure Committee, Justice Harry Hull, where they languish without a response. In fact, Justice Hull has insisted that any request be sent to him via the United States Postal Service. Perhaps if CCMS had actually worked the good Justice would have been satisfied with email, but alas we will never know.

How did this occur? That is an excellent question and one we are unable to answer because of a refusal on the part of branch leaders to disclose what apparently was decided behind closed doors. One thing we can point to is an apparent complaint by AOC staff that Alliance requests have become "burdensome" or troublesome."

We attach as an example a recent request by retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge and Alliance member Chuck Horan, along with the response from the AOC which highlights how far our leaders are prepared to go to deny the Alliance relevant and easily retrievable information. As painful as this might be, please take the time to review the entire email exchange that appears below.

The practice of hiding behind a tortured reading of Rule 10.500 of the Rules of Court, the attorney client privilege, and the catchall that the AOC does not maintain records that are easily retrievable is the very antithesis of "transparency" and "accountability." In fact, it is an assault on the basic notion of open government that as Americans we expect of those who are funded by public dollars.

At this point, the Alliance is exploring various options to obtain these public records. We would hope that branch leaders would voluntarily disclose and cooperate with these requests, but if past actions are a predictor of future actions, no changes will be implemented.

We will continue to keep you updated regarding this issue. We also encourage you to make requests of the central planners for information concerning the expenditure of public funds. Remember, but for the ability to obtain these records we would never have learned the truth about the AOC's faux hiring freeze and faux furlough policy, the real costs of CCMS, the Long Beach Courthouse debacle or the outrageous maintenance costs and pension spikes, just to name a few.

Directors,

Alliance of California Judges

------------------------------------------------

 

 

May 1, 2013

 

Dear Chief Justice, Justice Hull, Justice Miller, Mr. Jahr, and Mr. Finke:

At the end of this email is an information request I made on March 15, 2013.  Immediately above it is the response I received yesterday from Mr. Finke.

First, as to any claim of attorney-client privilege, I point out that no such claim would lie as to communications between, for example, the Chief Justice and Justice Hull.  Neither are attorneys, plain and simple.

Only communications between any of the named individuals (Chief Justice, Justice Hull, Justice Miller) and an AOC attorney made specifically for the purpose of seeking legal advice would arguably be covered, as would communications between (for example) the Chief Justice and Justice Hull which specifically discussed legal advice jointly given them.

The broad manner in which you (or the AOC) construe the attorney-client privilege would put beyond the reach of the public any document which passed between any AOC attorney and any member of the Council.

This is not a correct construction.  For example, my request (see #3) for materials presented to the Chief Justice by the AOC which dealt with the need for the interim policy would include information requests which were publicly proclaimed by various members of the Council to have been burdensome.  These cannot possibly be privileged as they were not generated by the AOC attorneys or any party to this email.  Further, any privilege would seem to have been waived.  I understand the reluctance in turning over emails, especially since it would appear that contrary to the statements made that ACJ requests were somehow inappropriate, the AOC has failed to identify a single such request.

Finally, insofar as any of you still maintain that the attorney-client privilege allows you to withhold the records I have requested, I ask that you each waive the privilege.

Lastly, I write to complain that the policy recently enacted by unanimous vote of the Council is apparently being routinely flouted by Justice Hull, who refuses to respond to requests forwarded to him by the AOC.  Several of my requests have gone that route, as Judge Jahr knows, and Justice Hull has yet to even acknowledge them.  I have asked Judge Jahr for his help in this matter, to no avail, so I repeat it here.

Thank you.

Charles Horan
Judge, Ret.

___________________________

 

Judge Horan,

Our responses to your March 15, 2013, request for judicial administrative records are set forth below in red font.  We have repeated each request immediately before the corresponding response for ease of reference.

1.  A copy of the "interim process" adopted by the Chief Justice, together with any an all memoranda, emails and other writings which memorialize the adoption or institution of this process, and all writings dealing with the "interim process"  and which were created in the two weeks prior to the enactment of the "interim process" by the Chief Justice, and which were authored by the Chief Justice, any AOC employee, Justice Miller, Justice Hull, or any employee of the Supreme Court.

All judicial administrative records responsive to this request are subject to the attorney-client privilege and thus exempt from disclosure under 10.500(f)(5).

2.  The authority upon which the Chief Justice purported to act in adopting the "interim process" for the AOC to follow.

This request is seeking information not contained in judicial administrative records.  Therefore, under AOC Policy 2.8 (Responding to Requests for Judicial Administrative Records and Information), which the council approved in December 2012, we are referring your question to Justice Harry Hull for consideration.

3.  Any and all materials presented to the Chief Justice by the AOC, in the month prior to her adoption of this interim process, which dealt with the need for such a change in process.  

All judicial administrative records responsive to this request are subject to the attorney-client privilege and thus exempt from disclosure under 10.500(f)(5).

4.  Any reports by the AOC purporting to demonstrate that AOC personnel had in fact spent "734.7 hours" in a two month period responding to Rule 10.500 requests (as reported to the Council in the full report which is excerpted below), and including any examples of burdensome or troublesome information requests that the AOC felt necessitated a change in policy or process.

Attached is a judicial administrative record responsive to the first part of your request.  The second part of your request—seeking “examples of burdensome or troublesome information requests that the AOC felt necessitated a change in policy or process”— incorrectly assumes that the AOC has characterized certain requests as “burdensome” or “troublesome” and that the development of policy 2.8 (Responding to Requests for Judicial Administrative Records and Information) was initiated by the AOC. Accordingly, the AOC does not have any judicial administrative records responsive to this request. The reasons set forth by AOC staff in its recommendation regarding AOC Policy 2.8, which the council approved in December 2012, are outlined in the council report available at this link: http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/jc-20121214-itemX.pdf. The council report also includes examples of requests that led to the development of the new policy.

5.  All emails and other writing between the Chief Justice, Justice Miller, Justice Hull, Mr. Chad Finke, and any other AOC employees dealing with the formulation of or enactment of this "interim process" including emails or other correspondence between the Chief--who enacted the process--and AOC which instructed the AOC to follow the policy/process.

All judicial administrative records responsive to this request are subject to the attorney-client privilege and thus exempt from disclosure under 10.500(f)(5).

6.  The exact date the "interim process" was initiated.

The exact date the interim process was initiated is contained in a judicial administrative record that is subject to the attorney-client privilege and thus exempt from disclosure under 10.500(f)(5). The approximate date the interim process was initiated is set forth in the council report available at this link: http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/jc-20121214-itemX.pdf.

7.  Any writing wherein the Council or Chief Justice or any other person in fact instructed AOC staff to "strictly construe the Rule" (10.500) as claimed by the AOC in the portion of the staff report set forth below.

Judicial administrative records responsive to your request can be found at the following links: http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/102811JCCAtranscript.pdf andhttp://www.courts.ca.gov/15847.htm.

8.  Any legal opinion which purported to justify any such directive--either in 2011 or in the Chief's August 2012 "interim process"--re: the  "strict construction" of Rule 10500, notwithstanding that Rule 10.500(a)(2) specifically states that the rule must be "broadly construed to further the public's right of access."

The AOC does not have any judicial administrative records responsive to this request.  Further, if the AOC had any responsive records, they would be subject to the attorney-privilege and thus exempt from disclosure under 10.500(f)(5).

9.  The manner in which the Chief Justice made Justice Hull her "designee" as set forth in the report excerpted below.

All judicial administrative records responsive to this request are subject to the attorney-client privilege and thus exempt from disclosure under 10.500(f)(5).

Chad Finke
Director
Office of Appellate Court Services/Court Operations Special Services Office, Judicial and Court Operations Services Division
Judicial Council of California - Administrative Office of the Courts
455 Golden Gate Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102-3688
415-865-8925, Fax 415-865-4329, chad.finke@jud.ca.gov
www.courts.ca.gov

 

"Serving the courts for the benefit of all Californians."



From: Finke, Chad
Sent: Friday, March 22, 2013 9:44 AM
To: 'Charles Horan'
Cc: Pubinfo; Jahr, Steven
Subject: RE: Information Request

Judge Horan,

The AOC will review files for responsive records and determine if there are any applicable exemptions, and anticipates providing any discloseable judicial administrative records by approximately May 3, 2013.

-Chad

Chad Finke
Director
Court Operations Special Services Office, Judicial and Court Operations Services Division
Judicial Council of California - Administrative Office of the Courts
455 Golden Gate Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102-3688
415-865-8925, Fax 415-865-4329, chad.finke@jud.ca.gov
www.courts.ca.gov

"Serving the courts for the benefit of all Californians."




From: Charles Horan [mailto:zack2@verizon.net]
Sent: Friday, March 15, 2013 7:52 AM
To: Finke, Chad; Hull, Harry; Miller, Douglas P.; Cantil-Sakauye, Tani
Subject: Information Request

Dear Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye, Justice Miller, Justice Hull, and Mr. Finke:

I reprint verbatim a portion of the AOC report to the Judicial Council dealing with information requests.  This report was provided as part of the agenda materials for the meeting of December 14, 2012 and can be found at  http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/jc-20121214-itemX.pdf

I request the following materials relative to this report:

1.  A copy of the "interim process" adopted by the Chief Justice, together with any an all memoranda, emails and other writings which memorialize the adoption or institution of this process, and all writings dealing with the "interim process"  and which were created in the two weeks prior to the enactment of the "interim process" by the Chief Justice, and which were authored by the Chief Justice, any AOC employee, Justice Miller, Justice Hull, or any employee of the Supreme Court.

2.  The authority upon which the Chief Justice purported to act in adopting the "interim process" for the AOC to follow.

3.  Any and all materials presented to the Chief Justice by the AOC, in the month prior to her adoption of this interim process, which dealt with the need for such a change in process.  

4.  Any reports by the AOC purporting to demonstrate that AOC personnel had in fact spent "734.7 hours" in a two month period responding to Rule 10.500 requests (as reported to the Council in the full report which is excerpted below), and including any examples of burdensome or troublesome information requests that the AOC felt necessitated a change in policy or process.

5.  All emails and other writing between the Chief Justice, Justice Miller, Justice Hull, Mr. Chad Finke, and any other AOC employees dealing with the formulation of or enactment of this "interim process" including emails or other correspondence between the Chief--who enacted the process--and AOC which instructed the AOC to follow the policy/process.

6.  The exact date the "interim process" was initiated.

7.  Any writing wherein the Council or Chief Justice or any other person in fact instructed AOC staff to "strictly construe the Rule" (10,500) as claimed by the AOC in the portion of the staff report set forth below.

8.  Any legal opinion which purported to justify any such directive--either in 2011 or in the Chief's August 2012 "interim process"--re: the  "strict construction" of Rule 10500, notwithstanding that Rule 10.500(a)(2) specifically states that the rule must be "broadly construed to further the public's right of access."

9.  The manner in which the Chief Justice made Justice Hull her "designee" as set forth in the report excerpted below.

Sincerely,

Charles Horan
Judge, Ret.

May 08, 2013
Important Budget Message from ACJ President Judge Steve White

April 25, 2013
What Will It Take to Kill the Beast?
Dear Members and Others:

By a show of hands, who thinks the half-billion dollar failed computer project, known as CCMS, is dead? If you raised your hand, you obviously made the mistake of thinking that our court leaders meant what they said a year ago when they voted to terminate the failed project.

We attach an article by Courthouse News reporter Maria Dinzeo which details the efforts of branch leadership to resurrect what was once thought to be dead, but apparently lives on to consume more precious trial court funds.The article contains links to various documents that disclose the behind-the-scene machinations to expand CCMS V-3 to include family law and juvenile dependency. You will see that the Orange, Sacramento, and San Joaquin Superior Courts have wisely objected to this plan. Inexplicably, the Ventura and San Diego Superior Courts support the effort, which will cost each court hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Alliance questions this stunning turn of events in light of clear legislative action last year that put the brakes on further CCMS spending. We are also mindful of a Judicial Council vote that appeared to stop CCMS in its tracks. We now learn that it takes more than the legislature and a vote of the Council to end what is the largest information technology failure in California state government history.

One final point. Alliance board member and Sacramento Superior Court Judge Kevin McCormick has requested the current list of active AOC/Judicial Council contracts. In the past, these lists were readily available and helped to shed light on the number of "temporary employees" and CCMS contractors who were on the payroll. We are now informed that the AOC no longer maintains this type of a list -- a judge, or anyone for that matter, can no longer readily determine how public dollars are being spent. As a result, the AOC and Council can continue to fund CCMS notwithstanding legislative action, public statements or Judicial Council votes to the contrary. Perhaps this is one of the reasons the AOC is opposing an audit of its contracting work, insisting that the State General Fund must pay for it.

These are tough times for the local courts. We have all witnessed valuable employees being shown the door, curtailment of hours of service to the public, and the closure of numerous local courthouses. It is truly bewildering that while this carnage is taking place our unelected branch leaders believe it is prudent to revive and expand on a computer project that has done irreparable harm to the judicial branch. Clearly this does not help to make the case for additional funds for the courts.

After the Courthouse News article we have pasted member emails we sent after the Judicial Council supposedly voted to kill CCMS. Perhaps with your help our concerns will be heard. We will continue to keep a close watch on this Council and its uncontrollable hydra, the AOC, and we will continue to advocate on your behalf for an elected Council with the conviction to put the interests of the trial courts and the public ahead of those of the central planners and their uninformed devotees.

Directors

Alliance of California Judges

_______________________________________

Courthouse News Service
4/23/13

Ghost Rises From Software's Grave

By MARIA DINZEO


     (CN) - Despite instructions from legislators to stop spending money on a controversial software project, a court technology committee is now looking to pour more money into the project long thought dead.
     A key administrator noted the political risk in spending additional hundreds of thousands of dollars on the aging Court Case Management System used by only a few trial courts. The great majority of trial courts, said the administrator, could see the spending as "enhanced funding for a project deemed cancelled."
     In more freewheeling language, judges slammed the software as "a money-sucking beast" that deserves "a stake through its heart," thence to be "dragged out into the sunshine to rot."
     The renewed life of the CCMS project was sparked by a recommendation from the Court Technology Committee, one of the powerful court committees that work closely with the Administrative Office of the Courts and meet in sessions closed to the press and public.
     Earlier this month, the committee's chair, Santa Barbara Judge James Herman, sent a letter to the five courts that use an interim version of the software, asking if they would like to "enhance" the system for a cost of somewhere from $317,000 to $381,000.
     Specifically, the proposal would expand the case types that can be included in the third version of the software to include family law and juvenile dependency cases.
     Over its decade-long development, the expense of the software project has been underestimated by administrative office officials and wound up costing more than a half-billion dollars in public money.
     The project was supposed to be terminated last year as a result of a vote in the rule-making arm of the court system, the Judicial Council, saying money could only be spent to maintain the system in the few courts that use the software.
     This month's technology committee letter proposing the expansion of the software's ability to handle additional case types was signed by Herman who was not available for comment. He said in a February interview concerning alternate court software that CCMS had in fact been successful.
     "CCMS was a technically successful, completed product," said Herman. "What defeated CCMS was we didn't have the money."
     Orange County Judge Robert Moss, who is also a member of the technology committee, echoed that point in an interview this week.
     "It's all about money," said Moss. "The three courts that are against it don't plan to use V3 for other case types and they don't want the limited resources that exist to maintain V3 to be diluted by expanding. It's not an irrational thing, but it's a dilemma because the trial courts are not in agreement."
     At its Monday meeting, said Moss, the technology committee decided to go back to the courts to see what funds each can afford to contribute, if any. "We're looking into whether the courts would have the ability to share the cost."
     The letter from the technology committee, sent early this month, has brought opposite reactions from the five courts that use the software.
     Sacramento, Orange County and San Joaquin are strongly opposed. Ventura and San Diego think it is a good idea.
     Sacramento head clerk Christine Volkers said the proposal "poses too much of a political and financial risk."
     "Sacramento is keenly aware of the discussions surrounding the reduction or elimination of funding for CCMS V3," she said. "If additional case types are added, this could be considered by other courts as enhanced funding for a project deemed cancelled."
     Volkers, who was hired late last year, also gave voice to the point often made by judges -- that the central administrative office has been subsidizing individual courts that agreed to use the software by footing the bill for the software's development.
     The great majority of California's 58 trial courts did not take on the software, so they are required to buy case management software, which routinely costs millions of dollars, out of their own operating budgets.
     "Many courts may believe that the CCMS V3 courts are receiving special treatment, when many are paying for their case management systems out of their trial court trust fund allocation," wrote Volkers.
     Sacramento adopted the controversial software under a previous clerk. Since that decision, the court's leaders have been in a number of confrontations with the administrative office over the software project and they were instrumental in its demise with a deeply critical assessment of the software's reliability and efficiency.
     "It's a reality that we are given additional money because we were 'early adopter courts,'" said Sacramento Judge Maryanne Gilliard. "Our court can't afford to keep CCMS afloat without it."
     "It is such a money-sucking beast," she added, "and so staff and employee driven."
     Another of the five affected courts, Orange County, said through its head clerk that it is "not interested" in the expansion. The court's letter said expansion could jeopardize additional funding the court receives now receives to maintain the defunct software.
     "If case types are added to V3, other courts that already object to any funding being provided for V3 courts may gain additional supporters and may succeed in cutting off the funding altogether, even for defect fixes and legislative updates," said head clerk Alan Carlson.
     Judge Moss, from the technology committee and also from Orange County, said that even if the committee decides to roll out the expansion for only two courts, the other three will still have to pay for testing to ensure the changes don't affect current operations.
     "Every court that has V3 running will have to do regression testing if the program is modified," said Moss. "Orange County will still have to do a lot of testing to ensure the modifications don't affect functionality."
     Like the administrators in Sacramento and Orange, the head clerk in San Joaquin Superior Court is also skeptical.
     "When V3 was deployed, there were several deficiencies in the accounting and financial area that today remain unresolved after several releases of 'fixes' to the original V3 product," said the court's head clerk Rosa Junqueiro. "We believe adding additional case types that require filing fees prior to fixing the existing accounting problems will create the need for additional 'work arounds' thus creating more work."
     San Joaquin is currently looking to replace its entire case management system with off-the-shelf software put together by Justice Systems Inc., one of three companies recently selected by a group of trial courts to be approved for the sale of software to California's trial courts.
     "We do not believe it is in the best interest of our court, given our limited resources, to expand V3 at this time," Junqueiro wrote. "Like many courts, the ultimate goal for our court would be to use a single case management system to support all case types."
     Coming from the other end of the debate spectrum, San Diego's head clerk Michael Roddy thanked the technology committee on behalf of both San Diego and Ventura, saying he "strongly endorsed" the proposal.
     But Roddy also said the expansion could take longer and cost more money than the technology committee had thought.
     The conversion of old case information had not been addressed, said Roddy and he would need more "tools" to help in data conversion, in addition to "information from Deloitte," a reference to the consultant that rang up enormous bills before on the software project.
     Ventura's presiding judge, Brian Back, also supported the enhancement with a letter saying it would help the move to e-filing. That ability to file court papers via the Internet was the original promise of the CCMS project. The final V-4 version was supposed to allow e-filing, but no trial court was willing to use the final version.
     While the letters from the five trial courts gave a decidedly mixed review of the expansion idea, commentary from judges was withering.
     Referring to the statements from legislators telling court administrators and their judicial supporters to stop spending money on the CCMS project, Judge Andy Banks in Orange County said, "It would be great to see what language is used to finesse how this is okay under the clear directive of the Legislature."
     California legislators have used severe language to criticize the CCMS project. Assembly member Joan Buchanan called it "a good example of how not to develop an IT project."
     Assembly member Gilbert Cedillo in March 2012 called for a halt to the project, saying, "Basically, using the parent language, we're taking a little time out here."
     Two weeks later, the courts' top rule-making body, the Judicial Council, voted to kill the project while salvaging some of its technology for the future.
     At the time, there was no discussion of specific future uses for the technology. However, this month's letter from the technology committee made it clear that the notion of expanding the software's application came almost immediately after the software project was declared dead. Specifically, Ventura's court made the request for expansion the next month, in April 2012.
     "A lot of people were afraid it was like a vampire," said Banks. "You could never be sure it was dead until you put a stake through its heart and drag it out into the sunshine to rot."
     Gilliard in Sacramento used a similar analogy to something that would not die.
     "It's like a Terminator movie," she said. "You think it's been killed off but then a bolt starts to scoot across the floor."
     "I thought the Legislature was pretty straight forward when they said, 'Don't spend any more money on this failure,'" added Gilliard who is a member of the Alliance of California Judges, a group that has been highly critical of the software project.
     "How can our branch leaders think this is a strategically good thing to do in light of the fact that every single court in this state is hurting and the Legislature told them to quit pouring money down this hole?"
     Technology committee member Moss defended the expansion by saying the money had already been set aside in funds intended for V-3 maintenance, which he added should not conflict with the Legislature's wishes.
     "We're mandated to continue operating and supporting V3 and this is within that budget," said Moss. We're not seeking any more money."
     As it had in years past, CCMS still keeps its ability to inflame debate within the judiciary, among the different courts, and within the same courts.
     In San Diego, Judge Runston Maino was troubled by the letter from his court's head clerk endorsing the expansion.
     "There a number of us who, despite Mr. Roddy's protestations to the contrary, believe that CCMS was and is a failure," said Maino. "As many of us see it, CCMS was not only a failure but it has cost this court about 40 million dollars."
     He added that the judges in his court shouldn't be kept in the dark.
     "Could I suggest that it might be a good idea to send out a judge wide email telling us what is going on? How much money is this going to cost us? Where is the money going to come from? What is the business plan?"
     Maino added by email comment, "The AOC has learned nothing from the CCMS fiasco. Their stubborn inflexibility to understand that CCMS is dead is troubling. What part of 'no' don't they understand? They are acting like the dog and fool in Proverbs 26:11."
     In the King James version of the Bible, Proverb 26:11 says,"As a dog returneth to its vomit so a fool returneth to his folly."

____________________________________________

 

April 5, 2012

Dear Members and Others:

We have been sending you frequent updates because there is a great deal of news and public interest being generated due to the collapse of the CCMS project. We are providing you now with a copy of the most recent article by Maria Dinzeo from the Courthouse News Service and a link to a broadcast on Los Angeles Fox News Channel 11, both released yesterday.

http://www.myfoxla.com/dpp/news/saving-the-california-dream-taxpayers-lose-in-statewide-it-debacle-20120404

The Alliance has been advocating since 2009 that the CCMS project be terminated and that the interim systems currently in use be delivered to the courts using them for continued use and maintenance upon local servers by those courts’ own IT staff and  with some "bridge" funding until each of those courts can maintain the system within their existing operating budgets.  We are concerned that the “termination” of CCMS may prove to be similar to the “pause” that wasn’t a pause last year, and the hiring “freeze” at the AOC which wasn’t really a “hard” freeze, but was a “soft” freeze.

We have repeatedly asked whether the expenditure of over $500 million of taxpayer money has ensured that at least the AOC owns the codes and can deliver those codes to local IT departments. The AOC has repeatedly stated that it owns the codes. Ms. Dinzeo’s article raises the issue that there are elements of the software apparently proprietary to Deloitte Consulting, the program developer, called vendor works that may have been included in CCMS and which may require continued payments to Deloitte.

Please review these news stories. We invite you in particular to consider what the AOC is paying for in its effort to “leverage” the current state of CCMS development.

Thank you for your continued support.

Directors,
Alliance of California Judges

________________________________


May 31, 2012

Dear Members and Others:

The media continues to show interest in last Friday's release of the SEC report.  In fact, the Sacramento Bee has published an editorial calling on the Chief Justice and Judicial Council to heed the recommendations of the report.  We attach that editorial for you, as well as a Daily Journal article by reporter Ciaran McEvoy and an Associated Press story by Paul Elias.

On another topic, most of us thought that the Judicial Council's vote last month to terminate CCMS meant it would be terminated.  We were apparently wrong.  We include for your information an email that was sent to certain Presiding Judges, court CEOs, and court CIOs inviting them to a CCMS demonstration originally scheduled for May 30.  Shortly thereafter, the demonstration was cancelled by the AOC as follows:  "The CCMS functional demonstration scheduled for Wednesday, May 30...will be rescheduled.  With the suspension (emphasis ours) of the CCMS program, and the reduction of contractor support, the CCMS application is in maintenance mode...On Tuesday we encountered technical issues in the PAT environment, which prevent us from proceeding with the demonstration."

The email from AOC staff seems further evidence of the disconnect and lack of meaningful oversight by the Judicial Council that the SEC referenced in its review.  The Council was given the option to suspend CCMS, but they voted to terminate the program.  A decision of the Council is meaningless if AOC staff are free to treat it as advisory only.

We will of course continue to keep you updated on all of these matters.

Directors, Alliance of California Judges

July 22, 2011
Response to AOC Vote to Deny Mitigation of Budget Cuts
Response to Bill Vickery Regarding July 22nd Judicial Council Meeting “At the conclusion of the July 22, 2011 Judicial Council meeting, a confusing motion was passed.”

July 22, 2011
Response to Bill Vickery Regarding July 22nd Judicial Council Meeting
We are disappointed to report to you that on July 22, 2011, 17 members of the Judicial Council voted against the proposal by the Alliance of California Judges to provide one year of full mitigation of budget cuts to the trial courts.

July 20, 2011
News Stories and Audio of Judicial Council Meeting
As you know, NBC affiliate KCRA in Sacramento ran a story dealing with allegations of AOC misuse of construction funds for routine maintenance work.

July 19, 2011
KCRA News Video and Interview with San Francisco Presiding Judge Feinstein
Alliance Director and newest member of the Advisory Committee on Financial Accountability and Efficiency, Judge Tia Fisher, is featured.

February 28, 2011
Adoption of the Trial Court Bill of Rights Was Intended by AB 233
The California Legislature enacted AB233 (the Lockyer-Isenberg Trial Court Funding Act of 1997) to provide a stable and equitable system for funding local trial courts

February 23, 2011
Letter to ACJ Members Regarding Introduction of Legislation
We are pleased to announce that major legislation sponsored by the Alliance of California Judges has now gone across the desk and been introduced in the California State Assembly as Assembly Bill 1208.

October 25, 2010
Letter from ACJ to Tani Cantil-Sakauye In Objection to Pay Raises
The Alliance of California Judges objects to the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Financial Accountability and Efficiency for institution of discretionary salary step increases for AOC employees retroactive to July 1, 2010.

May 21, 2010
Letter from ACJ to Members of the Judicial Council of California
We are writing this letter to express, with the strongest sentiment possible, our objection to the letter of May 11, 2010...

May 11, 2010
Letter from Judicial Council of California to Honorable Steve White, Presiding Judge, Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento
I am writing in response to the April 6, 2010 letter to the Administrative Office of the Courts )AOC) regarding the Superior Court of Sacramento Countyís (Courtís) intent to discontinue hosting services for the Courtís California Court Case Management System..

January 15, 2010
Letter from Judicial Council to ACJ
This letter responds substantively to your letter of December 7, 2009, in which you requested further information regarding (10 allocations that the Judicial Council recently made from three statewide special funds to cover the cost of technology projects...

December 07, 2009
Letter from ACJ to Stephen Nash, Director, Finance Division, Judicial Council of California, Administrative Office of the Courts.
Your response has raised some further questions on our part regarding these funds, particularly in light of allocations made by the Judicial Council on October 23, 2009.

November 23, 2009
Letter from Judicial Council to ACJ
This letter responds to your letter of October 21, 2009, in which you request ‘the total amount of all reserve or trust funds currently held for these purposes [facilities and information systems]’...”  

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