Monday, October 3, 2011
Chief Justice Says Budget Has Priority Over Analyst Report
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye on Friday said that the branch’s fiscal woes are a more pressing concern than implementing the recommendations set forth in a report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office last week which called for increased centralization of trial court operations.
She noted that the 20-page report from the Legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal and policy advisor “has appropriately engendered much discussion within the branch,” but “[i]n this fiscal environment...we have more immediate concerns.”
Branch leadership, the chief justice said, has been “laser focused on budget matters,” as “[e]nsuring public access to courts by restoring the judicial branch budget remains our main concern at this time and for the foreseeable future.”
Cantil-Sakauye also emphasized that the Judicial Council “has been addressing branch governance issues all year,” and has “initiated and encouraged dialogue and communication within the branch.”
The council has “instituted changes as suggested by judges and others and we are planning more changes,” she added.
When the council is ready to contemplate action on the LAO’s recommendations, Cantil-Sakauye promised it “will, as with any significant concept affecting the branch, marshal the facts, seek input and deliberate inclusively.”
Court of Appeal Justice Douglas Miller, who chairs the Judicial Council’s Executive and Planning Committee, said that he plans to ask his committee, which sets the agenda for council meetings, “to set aside some time at our next educational meeting on October 27 to receive a brief explanation about the report,” as its content “is very interesting and something that all of the Judicial Council members should be aware of.”
The report had concluded that existing legislation on trial court governance does not “go far enough in providing the state sufficient control and oversight,” and has not been successful in fully implementing the goals and objective of the Legislature in realigning the trial courts under the fiscal control of the state.
Its recommendations were for the state to take “true operational control” over the trial courts and for the Legislature to implement a “comprehensive trial court performance assessment system.”
The California Judges Association on Thursday responded that it was “deeply concerned” with these recommendations, and said the report “reflects a fundamental failure to understand and acknowledge that our democracy is based upon the existence of three co-equal and separate branches of government.”
“CJA is opposed to this complete centralization and encroachment upon the constitutional authority of local trial courts” proposed by the LAO, the group said in a statement
The group argued that “[t]he judicial branch is not merely a state department under the direction of the executive or legislative branch, nor can it be centralized in the same ways as other branches of government.”
Legislation was introduced earlier this year by Assemblyman Charles Calderon, D-Industry, with the backing of the Alliance of California Judges, to do just the opposite of the LAO’s recommendations. AB 1208 calls for an increase in administrative and financial autonomy for the state’s 58 trial courts.
Both Calderon and the alliance last week spoke out against the LAO’s recommendations, with the assemblyman calling into question the report’s failure to mention the controversy over the AOC’s oversight of the Judicial Council’s state-wide case management system, which Calderon panned as a “debacle.”
Kern Superior Court Judge David Lampe, speaking for the alliance, said the placement of “centralized control of the courts in the hands of the AOC” has been “a failure,” and such a model of branch governance “puts the goose in charge of feeding the chickens.”
The report is posted online at http://www.lao.ca.gov/reports/2011/crim/trial-court realignment/Trial Court Realignment 092811.pdf
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company