Before leaving for the Labor Day weekend, the Judicial Council of California voted unanimously to take control of something it already controls, the Administrative Office of the Courts. This may seem odd, but the AOC’s controversial spending, bungled management of a statewide court computer system and excessive hiring over the years has people stirred up. So the council wanted to take some action.
Those actions included a vote to “reaffirm” authority over the AOC, restructuring of the administrative office, deadlines for implementation of the reforms and monthly monitoring of the progress of those reforms.
The council is the policymaking body of the state courts and comprised largely of trial and appellate judges from around the state. The AOC carries out the policies and administers the court system statewide.
It came in for intense criticism from the trial courts as the recession intensified and local courts were routinely asked to cut spending, staff and programs. The chief complaint was that the AOC didn’t have its own financial house in order and had was top-heavy with staff.
The action Friday drew praise from the Strategic Evaluation Committee (SEC), which is the group that made the recommendations in the first place.
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye created the SEC shortly after taking office in 2011 to conduct a “top-to-bottom review of the AOC,” according to the council’s statement Friday.
Vice Chair of the SEC, presiding Judge Brian L. McCabe of the Merced Superior Court said, “Of the recommendations that were submitted by the SEC, almost 1,000 percent were accepted.” [We’ll assume Judge McCabe knows that, at most, 100 percent could be accepted and hope that was just a typo in the statement.]
One of the significant changes have been to cut the number of senior executives from 14 to four. This also reforms the unwieldy executive office state structure that had 14 people advising the court’s chief administrative executive.
The new executive office will include the Administrative Director of Courts, Chief of Staff, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Administrative Officer.
This new trimmed down operational structure will be in place October 1.
Another major change will be to separate court construction from court maintenance.
Judicial Council meeting agendas and reports are available here.