- Posted July 23, 2012 by
Shasta County, California
Is the Largest Judiciary in the Western World Crumbling?
Alan Ernesto Phillips
(Update for 8/1/12 below)
By all accounts the state of California has the largest judiciary in the Western world. Just the thought brings about visions of a colossal, well-oiled machine churning away flawlessly in the best interests of its citizenry. Surely the leadership and management practitioners must be of the highest caliber and unimpeachable character to maintain the highest of standards of such a behemoth of juris prudence.
Sometimes called the "foxiest Chief Justice in the country," California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye felt the sting of mounting complaints of corruption and mismanagement by her own Administrative Office of the Courts and Judicial Council. The elephant in the closet wouldn't sit still and Justice Cantil-Sakauye did what must have seemed like a sure bet: She doubled-down calling for a Strategic Evaluation Committee (SEC), and appointed a one year evaluation period by the esteemed group of her peers - with a call for recommendations for improvements, if needed.
A former barmaid and blackjack dealer in Tahoe, CA., the current California Chief Justice - and Arnold Schwarzenegger appointee - seemed over her limit on a bet that didn't pan out as she may have expected, amid strong and active protests for a recall.
The SEC investigated and uncovered rampant "irregularities" and clear abuses of tax payer funded programs and projects. AOC programs such as the questionable "Assigned Judges" program that affords retired judges a 90% income from their last salary, on top of their full pension and platinum parachutes, for part time work. That program that was specified as an "emergency need basis" to assist with court overload for 30 to 60 days.
One judge from Shasta County, CA has been named in the Judicial Council Watcher blog. 85-year-old Jack Halpin has been characterized by many published accounts as the poster child of judicial abuse. According to the blog, Halpin is a 19-year veteran 'assigned judge'. An assignment that was designed to only be 30 to 60 days long. In contrast to the state constitution that allows for election processes and retention cycles, as an assigned judge there are limited oversight and accountability measures afforded given the specified short assignments - and no elections: In... or out.
Currently court closures, lay offs of rank and file workers, and the recent discovery that California tax payers are also paying $10,000 per month for a telecommuting consultant living in Switzerland has caused many judges, and now legislators, to take notice. In a time when outsourcing American jobs is under greater scrutiny, it only seems to get worse when a tax payer funded, $500 million dollar computer-based Court Case Management System (CCMS) that has gone nowhere, with nothing to show for the half a billion dollar boondoggle.
With such a questionable hemorrhagic bloodletting of funds many are left wondering why the state of California hasn't acted much sooner.
The lack of reporting in mainstream media has kept the tax paying public out of the game, while the knowledgeable wonder why the SEC recommendations are currently being ignored by the Chief and her AOC and Judicial Council. It appears those officials now want a re-do. However the SEC, the Association of California Judges as well as most jurists have now dealt an asserted opposition.
During a recent 30-Day Public Comment period ending July 22, according to the most esteemed judges from throughout the state, an immediate adoption of the SEC recommendations must be immediately implemented. Dire consequences are indicated by many learned practitioners in that esteemed group of commenters if this recommendation continues to be stalled and ignored.
While complaints are now circling about the AOC gatekeepers removing public comments from promised publishing, jurist commenters are hopeful that an immediate implementation of the SEC recommendations are necessary to find a restoration of the crumbling public trust.
IMPORTANT STORY UPDATES - 8/1/12:
Sources and link to the Public Comments to the Chief Justice, et al: