SAN FRANCISCO—Citing confusion caused by having a staff with its own name, Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye urged the Judicial Council to divest itself of the name “Administrative Office of the Courts.”
“When I and others advocate for the public on behalf of the judicial branch we often encounter confusion among those who think that the Judicial Council and the Administrative Office of the Courts are two separate entities. They’re not. Quite simply, the administrative staff exists to support the Judicial Council and provide services to the courts, the public, and sister branches of government. Unifying the council and its staff under one name, Judicial Council, will create more clarity and transparency about the role and governance responsibilities of the Judicial Council. It also mirrors the standard practice of other government bodies who do not provide separate names for their staffs.”
Council members and Judge Steven Jahr, Administrative Director of the Courts, greeted the proposal with approval. Justice Douglas P. Miller, chair of the council’s Executive and Planning Committee, said, “This identity change reflects the significant and substantive changes that we as the governing body have made in policy and responsibilities over the last three years, and eliminates confusion so many of us have confronted.”
Judge Charles D. Wachob, co-chair of the Chief Justice’s Strategic Evaluation Committee, whose report in 2012 resulted in more than 100 Judicial Council directives for restructuring and reform of the administrative staff, also supported the move, calling it “A necessary step to resolve a perception crisis” that the committee was aware of but did not directly seek to resolve because it wasn’t in its charge.
Judge Jahr said, “This retirement at once changes everything, and changes nothing. There's only one entity, and that’s the Judicial Council of California. Neither in the Constitution, in statute, in rules, or in other formal methods, was a separate entity ever created. The change is more than superficial. It changes nothing in our organizational structure, but it does emphasize that the Judicial Council is the governing body with a staff that supports it, and it reflects a culture change that is already under way.”
The Chief directed the chairs of the council’s internal committees to prepare an amendment to the rules of court implementing the change for the council to take up at its next meeting, July 29. Judge Jahr was asked to address implementation issues within the same time frame.