It’s not quite open rebellion, but for California’s usually staid judicial community, it’s pretty close.
Two Sacramento County Superior Court judges, Maryanne Gilliard and Steve White, penned an item in today’s Flash Report blog that blasts the Judicial Council, among other things, for voting unanimously to close courthouses statewide once a month starting in September.
“While closing down some agencies of state government on one Wednesday a month would have little or no impact on the public, our county courthouses are different,” the pair wrote. “Closing courts means trials halted and justice delayed for neglected and abused children, crime victims, and the accused.”
You are part of the rebel alliance and a traitor … after the jump.
They blast the Administrative Office of the Courts for being “oblivious” to the current fiscal crisis, citing the growing size of the AOC payroll and the Judicial Council’s June planning meeting, which racked up bills totaling more than $80,000 for hotel rooms (including a presidential suite), a dinner at the Academy of Sciences and meeting “facilitators.”
“It is astounding that California’s citizens would be deprived of access to their courts without a top-down review to determine if budget savings could be achieved elsewhere,” Gilliard and White write.
And they don’t stop there. The two judges suggest the Judicial Council be restructured to include fewer appointees by the chief justice — he chooses 14 of the 21 voting members — “to better represent the voice and concerns of the elected Superior Court judges in California, rather than the chief justice alone.”
Tossing out such an idea appears to be a slap at Chief Justice Ronald George, who told a 2003 gathering of the California Judges Association that any attempt to “democratize” the Council’s membership selection would be a “declaration of war,” according to the Spring 2006 issue (.pdf) of the Judicial Council’s California Courts Review.
At Wednesday’s Judicial Council meeting, members said repeatedly that they did not like the idea of closing courthouses but saw no good alternatives, given the state’s budget woes.
Behind the scenes, some judiciary officials and court watchers have downplayed the complaints from the Sacramento judges and others as simply the grumblings of a few unhappy jurists. But judging from the phone messages and emails Legal Pad has received, we’re not so sure there isn’t some serious spark behind this rebellion.
— Cheryl Miller
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