Thursday, March 10, 2011
Justice Huffman, in Newspaper Piece, Blasts Decentralization Bill
Responding to Horan Op-Ed, Judicial Council Member Says ‘Only a Handful of Judges’ Support AB 1208
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
The division within the judiciary over court governance became glaringly public yesterday, with Court of Appeal Justice Richard D. Huffman of the Fourth District’s Div. One taking on Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles Horan in a strongly worded opinion piece in San Diego’s major newspaper.
Efforts to reach both jurists yesterday were unsuccessful.
Huffman objected to AB1208, which would grant the trial courts more authority over their administration and funding, in a letter to the San Diego Union-Tribune, which had published an opinion piece by Horan last Friday endorsing the measure. The bill, by Assemblyman Charles Calderon, D-Industry, was introduced Feb. 18 and could be heard in committee as soon as March 22.
The bill would cause a “return to the days of separate judicial fiefdoms and less judicial accountability, and the very real possibility that residents and attorneys will experience very different rules, procedures and access from one jurisdiction to the next,” Huffman said.
He accused Horan of “capitalizing on legitimate concerns about local control and the management of a statewide case-management system” to undo years of reforms which centralized the judiciary’s leadership and yielded benefits to the public, such as the planned construction of a “critically needed courthouse for downtown San Diego.”
The justice also asserted that Horan’s views are only shared by “a handful of others,” who are members of the Alliance of California Judges. Horan is a director of the group, but their membership list, Huffman noted, is “kept secret from the public and the rest of the judicial branch.”
Huffman insisted that members of the Judicial Council such as himself, and the California Judges Association “truly represent judges.”
One of Horan’s criticisms, however, was that the council is comprised of “a small, insular minority of favored judges” and CJA Executive Director/CEO Stan Bissey said yesterday that the organization was divided as to how it wanted to approach AB 1208.
At a meeting of the CJA’s executive board Friday, Bissey said, there were “members passionate on both sides” of the dispute and the leadership voted to issue a survey for “taking the pulse of the membership.”
Bissey said the survey will also address what response, if any, the group will make to State Auditor Elaine M. Howle’s scathing criticisms of the Judicial Council’s beleaguered California Case Management System.
Horan had cited the audit report, which was issued last month, as well as the Judicial Council’s “scripted responses” which “reassured us that all was well,” and that the agency was “ready to move on,” as evidence the “judicial governance structure is broken.”
The problems with CCMS, Horan added, “may be but the tip of the iceberg.”
The alliance, which he said consists of several hundred members, “stands firmly behind the Legislature” in support of AB 1208.
“Under the mantra of statewide administration, we have allowed an unaccountable bureaucracy to hold sway over our judges,” Horan said, insisting:
“It is time for that to stop, and it will.”
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company