Thursday, July 14, 2011
Panels Recommend Yearlong Implementation Delay for CCMS
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Judicial Council’s Trial Court Budget Working Group and the appellate court leadership yesterday recommended a 6.7 percent cut in funding for California’s 58 trial courts for the next fiscal year, as well as a 12-month delay in the deployment of its controversial California Court Case Management System, in order to absorb the $350 million in ongoing reductions to the judiciary’s budget mandated by the Budget Act of 2011.
After a seven-hour meeting in San Francisco, the groups also agreed to recommend the council make a 9.7 percent cut in funding for the California Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, and a 12 percent reduction in funding for the Judicial Council and AOC next year, with a 15.2 percent cut for all judicial branch entities for the following fiscal year.
These recommendations are slated for consideration by the council at a meeting next Friday.
First District Court of Appeal Justice Terence L. Bruiniers, chair of the Judicial Council’s CCMS Executive Committee said he had presented the working group with three proposals—a one year delay, a six month delay, and abandonment of the program.
Bruiniers said his recommendation “was and is still for the six-month pause scenario,” which “was the consensus of the governance committee as well,” but court officials reported this proposal was rejected by a vote of 11-13. The suggestion that CCMS be put on hold for the longer period was adopted by a 15-10 vote.
The justice remarked that deployment of the $1.9 billion program—which has been criticized as lacking in oversight and accurate cost estimates—was “already in a six-month pause…just to try to cope with the original $250 million in cuts” proposed by the Legislature, so the 12-month delay will actually be an 18-month postponement in deployment.
He said the program will be completed by the end of August and ready to go out to the trial courts in September, so “it’s frustrating to say we’ll have the product…and now we can’t use it.”
Bruiniers acknowledged the working group members “are looking for every dollar of savings we can possibly get to mitigate these horrendous cuts,” but insisted “it makes more sense long term to try to get CCMS out and deployed as soon as possible in the trial courts” since the costs of having to “ramp up” after the delay will increase the longer the project is idle.
He said, however, that he was “entirely sympathetic to the considerations the people on this working group have to deal with,” since “we’re in a situation where nobody has any good choices,” and “we’re trying to make the best choices we can between a range of unpalatably alternatives.”
San Diego Superior Court Judge David Rubin, president-elect of the California Judges Association, said the meeting involved a “very robust, conscientious discussion…about how to allocate cuts that are unprecedented and huge,” and addressed the working group members to advocate against cuts to court operations.
He said his remarks on behalf of CJA were that “we support the chief justice in her goal to keep the courts open full-time” since “the business of this branch is to hear disputes and appeals from disputes” so “whatever cuts are made, must preserve our ability to do that.”
Rubin called for cuts “to be minimal, if any are made at all” to the trial and appellate courts. He suggested the parts of the branch “that are not engaged in real public interaction,” such as management and administration, “need to take the bring of the cuts” because “nobody wants to see a part-time judicial branch.”
The results survey conducted by the Judicial Council in June also reflected similar concerns to those raised by Rubin, with respondents predicting budget cuts would inevitably lead to staff reductions, furloughs of up to four days per month, court closures or reduction in hours.
Directors of the Alliance of California Judges have also spoken out against cutting funding for court operations, and endorsed halving the AOC’s budget and scuttling CCMS as alternatives.
Ron Overholt, deputy administrator of the courts, in a statement yesterday however, said the 12 percent cut for the Judicial Council and AOC will deal a heavy blow to the organizations, requiring “continuing furloughs of at least one day per month, which have been in effect for 2 1/2 years, elimination of positions vacated through attrition and not filled, staff layoffs, and other service reductions to the courts and public”
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company