Court executive officers and presiding judges get together frequently to share information and solve problems collaboratively. This was a well attended statewide plenary, which happens twice a year. On this day, the Chief Justice met with the group about critical issues facing the branch—especially the events of the last few months. Assembly legislators recently passed AB 1208, a controversial proposal.
Hon. Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, Chief Justice of California “I think that what is most troubling to me is the fact that that legislation pitted judge against judge. It also pitted people who in the judiciary that stand for the separation of powers. It really calls into question what we really think that is in the branch. And that line has been and could very well be blurred.”
Now it’s up to the State Senate to decide what to do with AB 1208.
Chief Justice of California: “I think the Senate understands the branch needs to focus on budget. And for me, that’s all that we should be talking about now. So if the Senate sees that that bill needs to sit for a while so we can conduct the business of the budget, I’m grateful for that.”
Hon. David Rosenberg, Chair, Trial Court Presiding Judges Advisory Committee “What do you think the future is of this CCMS that we’ve now determined works, but we can’t seem to afford putting it out for the trial courts?”
Chief Justice of California: “Judicial Council will have to make a decision: do we move forward as a priority to spend money on technology with CCMS, or do we instead say ‘We can’t do it now. But we still have to come up with a technology plan, because across the state systems are failing.”
Hon. David Rosenberg, Chair, Trial Court Presiding Judges Advisory Committee “Other questions? The subjects are limitless.”
John Fitton, CEO, San Mateo Superior Court “I’m wondering what you think we can do, as a culture, as an organization, to create more of an environment where people feel comfortable asking those opposing questions internally.”
Chief Justice of California: “I think the key to moving on, the key to be able to work through our conflict, and I can’t say this enough, and I don’t mean it as a catch phrase in civility. Because when you’re not civil, it chills other people from speaking up. If the vote is angry and bitter, I don’t see a lot of people raising their hands. They have strong opinions, but they will not speak up.”
The group also asked about the Strategic Evaluation Committee that’s studying operations and the organizational structure of the Administrative Office of the Courts.
Tamara Beard, Fresno Superior Court CEO “The report is supposed to come out in April. Can you tell us what your plan is for after that?
Chief Justice of California: “I think that the report that comes out will be basically for the new or the administrative director, the bible about what the judges think, what the legislature thinks, what the court executives think, what the stakeholders thinks about how we can continue to best serve with limited resources, and what everyone needs.”
With all questions answered, the Chief Justice summarized her priorities.
“We all understand that we are in a time of transition and transformation, and all of us have the same goal and that is to provide access to justice the best way we can. So I welcome all of your support, your understanding, how you move us forward, and that we continue to do so, but first on the budget; second on everything else.”
I’m Leanne Kozak reporting from San Francisco for California Courts News.