Two weeks ago, the California Supreme Court-appointed Strategic Evaluation Committee released its over-200-page report on the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC). It was not particularly favorable. The media described the Committee's evaluation as everything from "sharp" to "scathing."
The report concluded that the AOC "must refocus on providing service to the courts; that a fundamental restructuring of the organization is needed; that the AOC must be down-sized to correspond with its core functions; and that its internal processes need to be improved."
On the date of the release, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said, “I haven’t been able to fully digest this voluminous report with its approximately 120 recommendations, but it’s clear how much thought and work went into it. I thank the committee for their great public service.”
Tuesday, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye released a reply from Interim Administrative Director Jody Patel on the current status of the AOC, in light of the SEC recommendations. According to Patel, 57 of 147 SEC recommendations have been completed or are in the process of being completed. For example, the report recommended reducing the bloated AOC staff roster from 1100 to between 680 and 780 employees. By the end of June, the AOC staff will be down to 860 employees, with further reductions are planned.
The AOC’s rapid response to the SEC report could be the organization’s attempt at damage control. The Alliance of California Judges has long-supported taking power back from the AOC, and the Alliance is one step closer to that goal after the California Assembly passed AB 1208 earlier this year. (The bill would strip the Judicial Council — and the AOC — of control over the court system’s $3 billion budget, and return control over the budget to the legislature.)
The Judicial Council — the Chief Justice-helmed policymaking body of the California courts — voted unanimously in December to oppose the legislation, according to Courthouse News.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has been stalling AB 1208 from coming up for a vote in the Senate; can swift self-correction save the Administrative Office of the Courts, or is the bureaucratic arm beyond repair?
- Committee Evaluating AOC for Chief Justice Files Final Report (California Courts)
- AB 1208 Passes Assembly: Cal Court Budget Back to Legislature? (FindLaw’s California Case Law Blog)
- Comparative Overview of SEC’s and AOC’s Own Internal Reorganization Recommendations (California Courts)
- AOC Wishlist Proposes Frivolous Spending in Wake of Deficit (FindLaw’s California Case Law Blog)