‘Alternative’ Judge’s Group Gaining Momentum?

A judicial group that has been critical of the current court management seems to be gaining some momentum after successfully supporting a legislative audit of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), drawing a crowd to its second annual conference in Los Angeles, partnering with a major university for that conference and gaining strong coverage in The Courthouse News.
The CN reported last week that “… the 500-member Alliance of California Judges conference was enlivened with at-times feverish energy, bolstered by a legislative committee’s recent approval of a financial audit examining the Administrative Office of the Courts and how it spends public money. Alliance members had lobbied for the audit, a campaign born out of the AOC’s ability to insulate a large staff and give the staff raises while trial courts were making draconian budget cuts, laying off workers and closing courtrooms.”
The CN quoted judges who called the event a “milestone” and it also reported that some out-of-state speakers were surprised to find out how difficult the courts situation has become in California. The conference included participation from George Mason University, and you can check out the CN coverage here

Heads Up: New Court Committees Target Budget, Access

While the debate over public access to court-management committee meetings gathers steam (see immediate previous post), anyone wondering about the significance of those groups need only look a bit deeper into new committees being formed on hot-button issues – like budget and access. Given that the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) is sometimes blamed for “rubber stamping” committee work, a skeptic might suggest that pushing debate into committee or even sub-committee meetings effectively removes discussion from citizen oversight.
The budget committee would, among other things, “… report to the council on AOC contracts that meet established criteria to ensure that the contracts are in support of judicial branch policy” and “… review proposed updates and revisions to the Judicial Branch Contracting Manual.” For a system facing debate over how much work can be farmed out to private contractors, as opposed to re-hiring employees, that’s an important discussion. 
Another group, actually a sub-group of a committee and led by a “committee co-chair” will tackle “… physical, programmatic, and language access; fairness in the courts; and diversity in the judicial branch.” Given that legal action against the Los Angeles Superior Court reorganization focuses on physical and other access issues, that’s another great debate.
And of course, all this helps create context for the 2014 state budget battle. Read between the lines at the State website.