Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Chief Justice Releases AOC Interim Report on Structural Changes
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye yesterday released a report from the interim administrative director of the state courts, Jody Patel, on the current status of the Administrative Office of the Courts in light of the recommendations made recently by the Strategic Evaluation Committee.
The report follows up on comments last week by the chief justice that the report, which reads as a blistering indictment of how the AOC has operated, was “a snapshot in time” that did not reflect the changes that have taken place at the AOC since the committee was formed over a year ago.
The SEC report is to be presented to the Judicial Council at its meeting later this month. Patel’s response said that 57 of the approximately 148 recommendations of the committee had already been completed or were in process of being completed when the SEC report was presented to the Chief Justice on May 25.
“The AOC has undergone many changes in the last 18 months, not only in leadership but also in structure,” the chief justice said in her statement yesterday. “Further, I asked Jody to send a copy of her status report of the AOC to the Judicial Council members and to the chair of the SEC, Judge Charles Wachob of the Superior Court of Placer County. In addition, I anticipate that the Council also will be focusing on the effect of the recommendations on the Council’s service to the public as well as to the courts when it studies the SEC report and the status report.”
Patel’s report lays out the SEC recommendations in the form of a chart, with indications as to the status of any AOC actions consistent with the recommendations.
The chart indicates, for example, that the AOC has taken action, as recommended by the committee, to eliminate positions related to the now-rejected central computer system known as CCMS. The chart notes that two positions have been eliminated, and one employee has been reassigned.
Among the other 56 recommendations of the SEC that the AOC says it has implemented or is in the process of implementing are:
•“Discontinue investigating and responding to complaints from litigants [through the Center for Families, Children & the Courts] about judicial officers who handle family matters, as such matters are handled by other entities;”
•Reduce or eliminate the various publications produced by the CFCC;
•“Eliminate the Judge-in-Residence position” at CFCC, which the report says will be done as of June 30;
•“Merge the Assigned Judges Program and Assigned Judges Program Regional Assignment units, resulting in elimination of one supervisor;
•“Review the AJP travel and expense policies to mitigate adverse impacts on the availability of assigned judges to smaller and rural courts;”
•“Consider creating a pilot program to allow half-day assignments of judges, taking into account the probable inability of small, rural courts to attract judges on this basis;”
•“Consider development of an Assigned Commissioner Program to assist courts with such matters as AB1058 child support cases;”
•“A workgroup has been formed to review all education for new judges to ensure that it is being provided in the most effective and efficient way possible. The efficiencies identified by this working group may present opportunities for reductions,” which the AOC said it initiated last December and hopes to complete this fall:
•“Eliminate the CCMS training unit and other positions engaged in CCMS-related activities in light of the JC’s decision to cancel the full deployment of the CCMS system,” to which the AOC responded by saying it had eliminated the training unit in April and has transferred three partial positions to other duties;
•“Reduce the total staff size of the AOC significantly;”
•“The Judicial Council must take an active role in overseeing and monitoring the AOC and demanding transparency, accountability, and efficiency in the AOC’s operations and practices;” and
•“The primary role and orientation of the AOC must be as a service provider to the Judicial Council and the courts.”
The full report can be found at http://www.courts.ca.gov/ documents/SEC aocstatusreport.pdf.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company