Wednesday, March 23, 2011
AOC Administrative Director Vickrey to Retire
Disclaims Connection With Two Lawmakers’ Call for Resignation
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
Long-time Administrative Director of the Courts William C. Vickrey yesterday announced he plans to retire Sept. 9.
Vickrey, 63, has served as chief staff administrator of the state court system for nearly two decades, although his tenure has not been without controversy. The Administrative Office of the Court has drawn fire in recent years for its perceived lack of transparency, courthouse construction and hiring practices during times of fiscal crisis, and continued investment in the California Case Management System, now projected to cost the state over $1.9 billion.
Last month, California Assembly members Ricardo Lara and Bonnie Lowenthal called on the Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye to oust Vickey in the wake of a scathing report from the state auditor—conducted at the request of Lowenthal—for his “staggering mismanagement” of CCMS. Vickrey, however, said his decision to quit his post was not motivated by the lawmakers’ criticisms.
He told the MetNews he had discussed his plans with Cantil-Sakauye last August and had timed his departure to coincide with the break between the end of this Legislative session and the beginning of the Judicial Council’s new term, as well as with the retirement of his wife, a school administrator.
“I decided to announce this now so it wouldn’t be sneaking out…and we can hopefully plan a good transition that provides some continuity,” Vickrey explained.
Vickrey said he found his time as administrative director of the courts to have been “very rewarding,” though not without “contentiousness.”
“I respect the fact that these are legitimate issues to differ upon and debate about the financial priorities and how we proceed,” he remarked.
“From my perspective, there’s not going to be a time where there aren’t budget challenges and issues to deal with,” Vickrey said, but “I don’t harbor any personal feelings about those things.”
He said he was “sorry” that Lara, D-Los Angeles, and Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, felt compelled to seek his removal and that he was attempting to address their concerns with the oversight of CCMS.
Cantil-Sakauye had blasted Lara and Lowenthal for their missive last month, calling it “a serious attempt to interfere with judicial branch governance.”
She issued a statement yesterday praising Vickrey for his “tireless dedication, innovation, and perseverance in helping to reform California’s courts and making the judiciary a true third branch of government in this state.”
‘Center of Storm’
First District Court of Appeal Justice Terence L. Bruiniers, chair of the Judicial Council’s CCMS Executive Committee, also defended Vickrey yesterday, remarking “the nature of his job is you’re at the center of the storm,” and being “the focal point of things like this, sort of comes with the territory.”
Bruiniers also acknowledged that some judicial officers have had “personal issues” with Vickrey—specifically former Presiding Judge J. Stephen Czuleger. Czuleger said yesterday he wished Vickrey well.
“While we may have had issues in the past what’s important now is to focus on the future of the judiciary,” Czuleger said.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles Horan, a director of the Alliance of California Judges and vocal critic of the AOC, said yesterday that Vickrey’s retirement was an opportunity to make “serious changes… in the governance structure of the judicial branch,” adding:
“We need accountability, transparency, democracy, and judicial over- sight.”
Horan called for the Legislature to help the judiciary “move forward in a way that allows all voices to be heard” by passing AB 1208, which would reduce the AOC’s authority over trial court administration and spending.
Lowenthal said yesterday she hoped Vickrey’s retirement would “give the chief justice new freedom to deal with the issues [she and Lara] raised about priorities and transparency.”
Former Utah Administrator
Vickrey has served as administrative director of the California courts since 1992, and is also secretary to the Judicial Council of California. Prior to assuming those posts, Vickrey was the administrator of the Utah Administrative Office of the Courts for seven years, executive director of the Utah Department of Corrections from 1983-85, and director of the Utah State Division of Youth Corrections for three years.
He said yesterday that he felt his current position was “the best job in public service in the country,” and that he had no regrets.
“I’ve been treated to an opportunity…been able to have a charmed life,” Vickrey said. “I leave feeling good about it all and look forward to the next step in life.”
His plans, he said, include traveling, spending time with his grandchildren, and playing golf.
A spokesperson for the AOC said the agency has not yet formed plans for selecting Vickrey’s successor.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company