Wednesday, September 12, 2012
‘No Inappropriate Conduct’ by AOC Lobbyists—Justice
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A Court of Appeal justice and California Judicial Council member said he looked into allegations of chicanery by two Administrative Office of the Courts lobbyist and found no wrongdoing.
Third District Justice Harry Hull Jr. said there was “no inappropriate conduct” by Curtis Child or Donna Hershkowitz in connection with lobbying regarding possible changes to a 2009 budget trailer bill. AOC critics, notably the directors of the Alliance of California Judges, have claimed the amendments would have deprived trial courts of the right to select their own presiding judges and clerks.
The controversy arose again recently when the alliance voiced displeasure with Child’s appointment as chief operating officer of the AOC, effective next month. In that capacity, Child will be one of three division heads reporting directly to Steven Jahr, who becomes administrative director of the courts Oct. 9.
The alliance last Friday sent out an email suggesting that Kern Superior Court Judge David Lampe, an alliance director, was being stonewalled by Hull with regard to a request for information. The email included a copy of an earlier email from Lampe to interim Administrative Director of the Courts Jody Patel.
The alliance commented:
“Justice Hull was given the request by AOC on August 7, 2012, and has simply ignored it. The stonewalling on this issue continues, as does the AOC practice of referring uncomfortable matters to Justice Hull, who insists on responding, if at all, by U.S. Mail only.”
But Peter Allen, a senior AOC executive, said in an email to the MetNews late Monday that he was “surprised” to read that comment. “Judge Lampe may have forgotten about this letter that Justice Hull sent him on August 12,” Allen wrote, attaching a copy of a letter from Hull to Lampe, reading in full:
“Dear Judge Lampe;
Your request for information addressed to Ms. Patel by e-mail on August 7 has been forwarded to me.
Specifically, your request was:
‘On July 18, I sent a straightforward email to Ms Hershkowitz, as set forth below. The only contact I have received is the automated out of office reply which follows. I am not the only one having problems getting timely and candid responses from your staff. Judge [Maryanne] Gilliard [a Sacramento Superior Court judge and alliance director] had great difficulty obtaining a response from Mr. Child regarding his lobbying efforts against the amendments to Govt. Code 68085 which the Chief Justice says she did not oppose. In fact, he didn’t respond until you apparently intervened, and then his answer was wholly non-responsive, saying, in essence, that his advocacy was consistent with Judicial Council policy.
‘That’s the question: DID the Council, Chief, or ANYONE ELSE tell him to lobby against the changes to Government Code 68085, and did he in fact do so?
‘Why do you allow your staff to stonewall simple requests such as these?;
Ms. Patel, we want truthful, candid, transparent answers to simple questions about Ms. Hershkowitz’s involvement in the drafting of the trailer bill in 2009 referenced in my email to her, and whether press reports were correct that the AOC lobbied against recent changes to Government Code Section 68085 and, if so, on whose authority? When will we get complete and truthful answers to these questions? These matters are critical to the Judicial Council’s consideration of the recommendations of the SEC.
The Administrative Office of the Courts is the staff agency to the Judicial Council and its employees are answerable to the Council. As many have suggested, the Council has needed to exercise greater oversight of the AOC and its employees and that is what the Council is now doing.
Your request for information suggests that you believe that two of those employees, Curt Child and Donna Hershkowitz, are guilty of wrongdoing or of improprieties that the Council should look into. I have done so and I have found there has been no inappropriate conduct by either of them regarding the issues that you raise.
Very truly yours,
Harry E. Hull, Jr.”
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company