Friday, October 5, 2012
Alliance Blasts AOC Treatment of Information Requests
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Alliance of California Judges yesterday criticized the way the Administrative Office of the Courts handles requests for information, saying the alliance is being discriminated against.
Judicial branch leaders, the alliance said in an email blast, have “now confirmed” that the AOC, and the Judicial Council of California “have implemented a policy treating information requests from the Alliance differently from those of others.”
The email cited a Courthouse News Service story entitled “Battle of Information in Judiciary.” The article dealt with the complaint, previously made by the alliance, that instead of dealing promptly with requests for information, the AOC funnels them to Third District Court of Appeal Justice Harry Hull, who insists that requests be sent to him by “snail” mail, and in responding in the same manner.
Hull told Courthouse News that use of hand-carried mail is necessary to provide accountability.
“For certain requests, I have insisted that the requesting judge make the request to me by standard mail over the judge’s signature rather than by e-mail for purposes of accountability and to avoid a later claim that the judge did not make the request,” he wrote in an email.
“I base this in part on 40 years of practice in both criminal and civil litigation,” he added. “It ‘makes the record’ and leaves no room for claims of tampering with the message or false authorship which e-mail allows for. With his or her signature, the judge owns the letter and the message and cannot later claim to the contrary.”
The alliance yesterday questioned “whether [Hull’s] explanation makes sense in our digital world.”
The Courthouse News article also referenced emails the service received from retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles Horan, an alliance founder, and Hull regarding the issue of response to information.
“It is obvious that Justice Hull has been personally assigned to me, and to the current directors of the Alliance of California Judges, regardless of the nature of the request, and regardless of who might actually have the information to answer it,” Horan wrote. “It appears to me and others that a high-level decision has been made to make life difficult for anyone affiliated with the Alliance of California Judges when it comes to these requests.”
Hull told Courthouse News that the Judicial Council is currently working on amending its method of handling records requests.
“This has become necessary because of the nature of certain requests that the AOC has been receiving over the past year or two,” Hull wrote. “That is, many requests from judges are for records, which requests are processed as any other request for records.”
“However, many requests the AOC has received lately are not for records but are for ‘explanations’ or simply ‘information,’ that is, not records requests at all.”
He said that between 300 and 400 hours of administrative office time had been spent on requests for information since June 1.
“We are trying to clarify the manner in which the AOC handles these requests and that it do so under the auspices of the Judicial Council,” Hull wrote.
The alliance said it has asked Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye to ensure that alliance requests are placed on an equal footing with others.
“We are hopeful that the Chief Justice will end this unfair treatment of her judicial colleagues and immediately direct that council members and AOC staff respond to these legitimate requests for information without delay,” the alliance said in yesterday’s email.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company