After 55 weeks of intense labor, the Strategic Evaluation Committee – appointed by California’s Chief Justice – submitted their 251 page report on the Administrative Office of the Courts to the Judicial Council. The Chief Justice predicted positive results.
Hon. Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, Chief Justice of California “I anticipate that it will help yield change for the better, and advance and improve our ability, both the Judicial Council’s and the branch’s as a whole, to provide equal access to justice.”
Judge Brian McCabe, Vice Chair SEC Committee “We do not profess that this is the blueprint for the future. It’s a tool. It’s not meant to be: ‘take everything or leave it.’ It’s to initiate the thinking process, the discussion process.”
And so it has. Dozens of comments and letters have poured in, and many presiding judges have expressed their views.
Judge David Rosenberg, Judicial Council “From the ones that I have heard from, they are all supportive of the SEC report.”
Folks lined up to offer their opinions in person. Justice Laurie Zelon was concerned that a business case analysis would be inappropriately applied.
Justice Laurie Zelon, Commission on Access to Justice “When we think about how we are going to analyze business case, when we talk about access to justice, the driving force must be the needs of the litigants.”
Sacramento Judge Steve White, representing the Alliance of California Judges, suggested that all the recommendations should be adopted and implemented immediately. Others had a different perspective.
Anthony Pico, Blue Ribbon Commission on Children in Foster Care “Yes, we can go back to 1992 standards; but do we want to?”
The chair of the Committee described their process of analysis in precise detail.
Judge Charles Wachob, Strategic Evaluation Committee Chair “We came to the task with an open eye, trying to find out what the criticisms and concerns were. Our charge was to take a look at the organizational structure, efficiency and transparency of the various parts of the AOC. Accordingly the SEC’s report by its very nature focuses on problems rather than on many of the positives that we see from the AOC.”
There are 143 recommendations on structural changes to the AOC and another four dealing with the Judicial Council some of them controversial. Some stakeholders mentioned that services to the Appellate Courts and to the public should also be considered.
Judge Erica Yew, Santa Clara Superior Court “I want the court customers or the clients’ voices also to be part of the mix when we consider what we’re going to be doing.”
Judge Ira Kaufman, Judicial Council “Let’s take our time and do it right. Nobody here that I’ve heard so far wants to bury this thing; we want to make this work.”
Council members voted to accept the report. And they approved next steps – referring the report to the council’s Executive and Planning Committee.
Justice Douglas Miller, Judicial Council “We’re going to put the public comments on the web page, we’re going to report back at every meeting and it will be transparent and accountable, and you can hold me and my committee members accountable.”
Judge Charles Wachob, Strategic Evaluation Committee Chair “I would agree with that. We’re not at the stage of adoption; we’re at the stage of considering this.”
Judge David De Alba “Referral of the report to the Executive and Planning Committee does not represent unnecessary delay of the report.”
The Executive and Planning Committee will review and consider every one of the 147 recommendations. The first public comment period will be a minimum of 30 days. The Chief Justice says she is fully committed.
Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye “I asked for it, it’s a hard look, I have to be a bit of a masochist for this, but I intend to follow through with it, thank you very much.”