Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Autonomy Bill Passes State Assembly, 41-23, Goes to Senate Next
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The state Assembly yesterday passed AB 1208, which would give greater autonomy to California trial courts.
Courthouse News Service reported from Sacramento that the bill sponsored by Assemblyman Charles Calderon, D-Industry passed by a vote of 41-23. The legislation now goes to the Senate.
The bill would give trial courts greater administrative and financial autonomy. It has divided judges across the state, with many in Los Angeles and other large counties voicing strong support but with equally staunch opposition coming from many in the smaller counties.
Forty-two of the state’s 58 superior court presiding judges recently wrote in opposition to the bill. A major backer has been the Alliance of California Judges, which has touted passage as a way of returning to the courts traditional administrative prerogatives that have been eroded since the state took over court funding in the 1990s.
The debate, Courthouse News Service reported, was driven in large part by complaints over the mammoth computer project known as the California Court Case Management System, or CCMS. The project was the subject of a scathing report last year by State Auditor Elaine M. Howle, who noted that its cost had grown from an initial $260 million estimate to $1.9 billion, with vendor contracts being amended 102 times.
Supporters of AB 1208 cited CCMS as an example of a central bureaucracy that had run amok and needed to be reigned in. Opponents agreed that the project had been mishandled, the news service said, but argued that AB 1208 was not the appropriate response and would have unintended consequences.
Assembly Judiciary Chair Mike Feuer, D-West Hollywood, opposed the bill, saying it could lead to cuts in interpreter programs and court self-help centers.
The directors of the Alliance of California Judges, including Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Tia Fisher and Susan Lopez-Giss, said in a statement:
“We are pleased that the California Assembly has passed AB 1208. This is an essential step in a process of judicial reform that began in the Fall of 2009....
It is a very difficult time for the courts. We hope that this will now be a new opportunity for the Chief Justice and the Judicial Council to accept our longstanding request to meet and discuss a fair resolution of the issues.”
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company