Governor, Judicial Council Dismiss ‘Open Government’ Provisions

In a likely blow to an already tense relationship, the California Judicial Council has successfully side-stepped an “open government” provision of the state budget that would have required that the group’s meetings be public. The Judicial Council, which is the administrative office of the justice system, had come under fire during the recent state budget process for its spending practices and for conducting most of its decision-making process in secret. Labor groups, in particular, argue that too many judicial admin decisions are made without public comment.
Those concerns earned provision to open Judicial Council process as part of a budget bargain. But last Friday, reports Courthouse News Service, “… after lobbying by California’s Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Governor Jerry Brown on Thursday ‘blue penciled,’ or eliminated, that transparency provision.”
That brought a sharp response from Assembly member (and chair of that group’s budget committee) Bob Blumenfield, who recently gained a certain cult status for lecturing court administrators on wasteful spending. The last-minute changes also angered media groups who object to a change in how newly filed court cases are made available to the public.
As for the open meetings provision, Blumenfield echoed talking points from judicial administrators, who noted during the budget process that courts are a branch of government that relies on funding from the other two branches. Said Blumenfield, in the Courthouse News Service: “The veto is a mistake… the public has a right to know the decisions affecting access to justice and the inner workings of an entire branch of government.”
The CNS report by Bill Girdner is not to be missed.