Friday, April 2, 2010
AOC to Consider Objections To Cost-Cutting Proposals
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The head of a Judicial Council working group charged with developing the framework for a uniform statewide plan reducing court services as a cost-cutting measure said yesterday that concerns raised by the Alliance of California Judges regarding the draft guidelines and directives proposed by the group will be taken under consideration at a meeting today.
Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Mary Ann O’Malley, who is leading the working group, said that the alliance’s letter was “exactly the type of response that we were hoping for,” since the comments were “very thorough, very specific and very helpful.”
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles Horan, a director of the alliance, said that the proposed approach “would be an unlawful one,” since it would usurp the authority of the trial courts to independently manage their own operations and he was “confident and hopeful” the working group will reject the proposals.
He said that many courts had issued “very similar objections” since the proposal was released for comment last week, including the Los Angeles, Orange, Kern and Sacramento Superior Courts.
O’Malley promised that the working group was “going to seriously consider those comments,” as well as those received from presiding judges across the state, adding that the responses “were very much appreciated.”
Philip Carrizosa, a spokesperson for the Administrative Office of the Courts, emphasized that the document circulated among judiciary officials was “a very preliminary draft which will be revised in response to the comments we receive,” emphasizing: “We want to hear the comments.”
On Tuesday, the alliance sent a memo to the working group objecting to the proposals, which among other things suggested setting mandatory minimum operating hours for the clerk’s offices, requiring the availability of drop boxes on “reduced services days,” and limiting the ability of a court to close, other than on judicial holidays, without consulting the AOC.
The alliance contended that the Judicial Council and AOC do not have authority to govern the day-to-day operations of the trial courts, insisting that the document circulated for comment “seeks to mandate the manner in which local trial courts respond to the current lack of adequate funding” and “to mandate and micromanage the manner in which cash-strapped trial courts approach the subject of closures and reduced services.”
Although the alliance acknowledged that uniformity among the courts was “a desirable goal,” it opined that such a goal was “unrealistic,” since each court has “unique problems” best addressed by each court’s own management.
Horan also criticized the proposals as “the tail wagging the dog, again,” contending that the AOC’s “first instinct is always to issue mandates, even when they don’t have the authority to do so, as in this case.”
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