California Still Dealing With Epic Failure On Case Management System

California Gov. Jerry Brown is seeking another $12.5 million to help several courts update case management software, a situation that dates back to an epic failure to upgrade the entire state. That project was terminated in 2012 amid what The Courthouse News in L.A. called “damning criticism from legislators, trial judges, court employees and union leaders as a costly and technologically unwieldy boondoggle.” But several counties actually started using the failing system, and they want to now upgrade with new vendors.

The tech debacle was front-and-center as massive budget cuts brought some of the more severe justice rationing to the Golden State. Read the latest at CN here:

CNS – Budget Revise Gives Calif. Courts $12.4 Million More

Judges Oppose Proposed Budget Oversight

Judges and court clerks on the Judicial Council’s Trial Court Budget Advisory Committee are opposing a proposed rule change “… that would give a different council committee the authority to go back and review how the council and its staff spent judiciary funds on behalf of the courts,” the Courthouse News Service (CNS) is reporting.
In a detailed story, the CNS quotes a San Luis Obispo judge complaining that the rule change would be “… a complete diminution of the authority of” the existing committee while adding that “… this [judicial] branch has a history of problems with credibility and transparency. I think we’ve worked on that, but this goes backwards. It reduces transparency.”
The rule change comes in response to a harsh state audit that questioned how the courts spend money and create transparent decision-making.
Read the CNS story 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.

In Sacramento, New Presiding Judge Confronts ‘Crisis’

“Keeping the doors open will be a major accomplishment in and of itself,” says the incoming presiding judge of the Sacramento Superior Court in an interview with The Courthouse News. The story notes that Judge Robert Hight says he feels he hopes “… to make good use of hard times [because] a good crisis is always the best place to make major changes.”
“The biggest challenge is clearly budget and how can we provide a level of services the public deserves given the budget that we have,” Hight told the CN. Along with the judges comments, the story offers a good brief history of several court trends, dating back to the days of the initial round of case management system backlogs, circa 2007.