Friday, February 25, 2011
Lawmakers Call For Vickrey’s Removal Over ‘Mismanagement’
Chief Justice Blasts Lara and Lowenthal for ‘Serious Attempt to Interfere’ With Judicial Branch
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
California Assembly members Ricardo Lara and Bonnie Lowenthal yesterday called on Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye to remove William C. Vickey from his position as administrative director of the courts.
Lara, D-Los Angeles, and Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, said Vickrey, who has been the chief executive of the state court system since 1992, should be ousted because of his role in the development of the Judicial Council’s highly criticized California Court Case Management System.
The chief justice issued a statement in response, saying she viewed the missive as “a serious attempt to interfere with judicial branch governance and [her] ability to evaluate the AOC management team,” as well as “a profound diversion from the difficult issues that our branch is trying to resolve.”
She defended Vickrey as “an invaluable resource to the judicial branch” and said she will “continue to work closely with him and others to meet the courts’ challenges—most notably the $200 million reduction to the branch.”
Efforts to reach Vickrey yesterday were unsuccessful.
In the letter to Cantil-Sakauye, a copy of which was obtained by the MetNews, the lawmakers also referenced the judiciary’s budget crisis and criticized Vickrey for recommending the diversion of $94 million from other funds for CCMS when that money could have been used to prevent the court closures which were in effect last year.
Lara and Lowenthal asserted Vickrey’s “staggering mismanagement” was also to blame for the project’s “skyrocketing price tag,” which “ballooned from $260 million in 2004 to $1.9 billion, and counting, today.”
They further insisted Vickrey’s “bewildering dismissal of sound advice”—such as recommendations in a 2004 report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office and a 2007 review by an outside consulting firm—has “resulted in the kind of debacle that, in any other setting, already would have resulted in termination.”
Lara and Lowenthal additionally noted the findings of State Auditor Elaine M. Howle, who undertook an evaluation of the CCMS program at Lowenthal’s request. Her Feb. 8 audit said the project “lacked sufficient planning and analysis,” and faulted the agency, among other things, for having failed to conduct a cost-benefit analysis before outlaying significant recourses for development.
A cost-benefit analysis was completed by Grant Thornton LLP yesterday, the AOC said, claiming the analysts estimated that California will save approximately $300 million annually once CCMS is deployed and fully operational in all 58 superior courts, and canceling deployment would produce a negative return on investment of $270.5 million
The agency said the full study and its executive summary would be made available on the California Courts website yesterday, but these materials were not posted as of the close of business. It is scheduled to be discussed by the Judicial Council at its regularly scheduled meeting today.
First District Court of Appeal Justice Terence L. Bruiniers, who chairs the Judicial Council’s California Court Case Management System Executive Committee, was quoted in a release as saying the cost-benefit analysis “verifies that the investment we have made in developing this system has been warranted and will provide tangible benefits for many years to the state and to our courts.”
Bruiniers has drawn fire from his judicial colleagues in recent weeks for his defense of CCMS. Former Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge J. Stephen Czuleger last week sent a letter to Bruiniers in which he complained the justice’s messages to the judiciary—which have repeatedly emphasized that the audit contained “no criticisms of CCMS on a conceptual level” and that most of its recommendations were being implemented—“give every indication that no lesson has been learned and that things are viewed as business as usual” and called for “new blood” to be brought to the oversight of the program.
Czuleger declined to comment yesterday regarding the lawmakers’ plea for Vickrey’s ouster, but said: “I stand by my letter from before.”
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles Horan remarked the letter from Lara and Lowenthal “just points out we are really in a governance crisis brought about by years of…lack of oversight of the AOC,” during which time “that agency was allowed to run wild.”
Horan—a director of the Alliance of California Judges, an organization which as challenged the AOC’s leadership—insisted the solution would be for the Legislature to pass AB 1208, which would afford trial courts more authority over their administration and funding.
He added that the apparent failure of the AOC to provide the cost-benefit analysis report was “the usual game” for the agency, since withholding it would “absolutely foreclose the possibility of any meaningful debate or of any meaningful questioning” at today’s Judicial Council meeting.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company