Thursday, July 5, 2012
Alliance Founder Horan Endorses SEC Recommendations, Blasts Comment Process as Lacking Integrity
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A retired Los Angeles Superior Court judge and founder of the Alliance of California Judges has urged the Judicial Council to move quickly to implement the recommendations of the Strategic Evaluation Committee.
Charles Horan, who left office last year after 23 years on the bench, submitted his views as part of a public comment process set up by the Judicial Council. But he called that process flawed, saying it was “unfairly structured to guarantee a skewed result” in favor of the status quo.
The SEC report, presented to Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye in late May, was critical of virtually every facet of the operations of the Administrative Office of the Courts. It made nearly 150 recommendations for changes.
The chief justice referred the report to the council’s Executive and Planning Committee, chaired by Fourth District Court of Appeal Justice Douglas Miller. The council opened a “rolling public comment period” at its June 21 meeting.
Horan, who emphasized that he speaks only for himself, and who provided a copy of his comments to the MetNews, criticized the plan to publish the names of all commenters. This means that “honest employees” of the AOC who spoke candidly to the SEC under promise of confidentiality will not be able to repeat their comments to the AOC.
This further means that “Justice Miller’s explicit promise made at the Council meeting of June 21 that he would jealously protect the integrity of the process cannot be kept,” Horan insisted.
He also suggested that “judges...struggling with budget cuts, court closures, and staff layoffs—will rightly ask: ‘Why should we tell you what we have told you again and again, when you refuse to act on what we say?’”
Public comment is unnecessary, he argued, because the AOC has gotten all the advice it needs over the past six years in the form of internal and external reports and surveys, culminating with the SEC report.
The “recurring themes” of those reports, Horan characterized, were that “the AOC is a dysfunctional, control-oriented, bloated and overstaffed agency which habitually oversteps its bounds, and cannot be counted on to deliver trustworthy information to the state’s judges, the legislature, or even the Council” because of “a seeming inability to engage in thoughtful analysis.”
Rather than engage in “further discussion, study, surveys, and hand-wringing,” the jurist wrote, the council should move forward with reform.
The council, he went on to say, has stepped far beyond the limited role set forth in the state Constitution, which makes it a rulemaking and recommending body. Instead of performing that straightforward role, he said, it has spent the past 15 years or so making broad policy pronouncements that the unaccountable AOC has used as a license to act “as it sees fit, often with little guidance, oversight, or apparent care...and with no measure of success or failure.”
He further rejected suggestions that a successor to recently retired Administrative Director of the Courts William Vickrey be in place before the council acts on the SEC report. The council, not the director, needs to be in the forefront of reform, Horan said.
Also commenting on the SEC report was former Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge Charles W. McCoy Jr. In a letter dated last week, a copy of which was obtained by the MetNews.
McCoy urged that committee’s recommendations that the AOC be required to provide the council with “a business case analysis, including a full range of options and impacts, before undertaking any branch-wide project or initiative” and that it “employ an appropriate business case analysis of the scope and direction of significant projects or initiatives, taking into account the range of fiscal, operational, and other impacts to the courts” be “adopted immediately and implemented without delay.”
Previous proposals to require such analysis were rejected by the council, including during the time he was a member, McCoy noted. This “has proved to have been a tragic error leading to profound adverse consequences, as demonstrated by subsequent events involving CCMS and other costly Branch spending initiatives.”
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company