Early today — and less than 24 hours before a planned legislative hearing on the budgeting process of the state’s courts — a group of judges, court workers, law enforcement officials and children’s advocates held a telephone press conference to air their gripes about the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts.
While upset about an alleged lack of budget transparency, a growth in staff and a controversial computer system under development, the speakers mostly focused their complaints on the AOC’s decision to close courts one day a month.
“Our priorities have always been that the courts remain open under all circumstances,” Justice Thomas Hollenhorst, of Riverside’s Fourth District Court of Appeal, said. “But recently in our budget crisis, we’ve decided that accessibility is not as important as other issues.”
“That,” he added, “has a terrible effect on the court system.”
Erecting Taj Mahals amid the rapid financial decline, after the jump …
Nick Warner, spokesman for the California State Sheriff’s Association, accused the AOC of closing courts while erecting “Taj Mahals” — expensive new courthouses — around the state.
“We think courthouses are badly needed,” Warner, managing partner of Sacramento’s Warner & Pank, added, “but not now at this time of rapid financial decline.”
The press conference was held on the eve of a meeting in Sacramento by the Assembly Committee on Accountability and Administrative Review. It convenes at 9 a.m. in the state Capitol and is aimed at taking a close look at the courts’ budget expenditures and the California Case Management System, or CCMS, which will one day link the state’s 58 trial courts to each other and law enforcement agencies.
A spokeswoman for the Service Employees International Union, which organized today’s press conference, announced a four-point accountability plan that the speakers hope will be adopted by the Assembly committee.
She said the plan calls for making serving and protecting the public a priority, opening the administrative records of the AOC, holding open meetings and independent financial audits of the AOC and the courts.
— Mike McKee