Video: Chief Justice's Introduction to the SEC Report

for release

Leanne Kozak, 916-263-2838

June 22, 2012

Video: Chief Justice's Introduction to SEC Report


The following is a transcript for this video clip taken from the June 21 Judicial Council meeting.

"I begin this agenda item by expressing my deep gratitude to the Strategic Evaluation Committee and I know many committee members are here today, as well. The committee of judges, both sitting and retired, and the four executive advisory members and especially Judge Charles Wachob and Assistant Presiding Judge of the Superior Court of California, Placer, and Judge Brian McCabe Presiding Judge of the Superior Court of Merced. The chair and vice chair. All deserve our respect and admiration for taking on an unprecedented review of the AOC in order to recommend to us, the Judicial Council, the ways in which the AOC can be improved to best serve the interests of the judicial branch and the state as a whole in these grim fiscal times.

14 Judges and 4 advisors on the SEC served at my request, without staff support and devoted countless hours to their evaluation of the AOC and I thank you for your service. I know you've heard from many members of council but you have my formal gratitude for taking on this very big, tremendous task,

55 weeks of dedicated service to this task I think speaks volumes about the gravity with which the SEC approached their mission and the depth and scope of their mission. What they provided to the council, I think is a very helpful tool that we will employ as we continue to move our branch forward and keep our focus on the branch despite a very challenging fiscal environment.

When I became Chief Justice, it was and continues to be important—and I would say even urgent—to me. . .that the council uses every tool available to assess the needs of the public, the judicial branch, and every court in our state system to ensure that we’re delivering on the promise of equal justice for all. When I began, and even to this day, an informed comprehensive look at the AOC was one of my first priorities. And over the last 15 years those of us in the branch who experienced the transformative effect of state funding, trial court unification, and responsibility for our court facilities, we knew that the Judicial Council had assumed greater duties and the AOC had accordingly grown in responsibility, complexity, and size. But in 2011, in our third consecutive year of budget reductions, I felt we needed more information about whether or not the AOC was still operating effectively and efficiently given the present circumstances and the council's priorities.

That's why I appointed the SEC in March 2011 just weeks after I was sworn in and that was after I had enlisted the presiding judges to help me get a better overview through surveying all the trial judges in the state on branch governance issues. And the SEC was intended to provide a further mechanism to assist me and council, to gather data, assess priorities and to determine what changes might be made in order to improve AOC operations and efficiencies in order to best serve the court and ultimately the public. Such a report has not previously been undertaken. And I think it reflects among other things the branch’s historic willingness to take a hard look at ourselves particularly as we work to conform to the current needs of the public and the branch and in the midst the middle of an unstable and grim financial reality over which we have little to no control.

The Judicial Council has been and continues to be an enthusiastic leader of positive change. The AOC has been historically the instrument we relied on to implement the council’s vision and its steadfast priorities that is improving access and fairness for all Californians. You'll be hearing more from Jody about changes that have been made and are underway. And now with this report we have an invaluable tool. And I’m confident that we will continue to re-examine our practices and the activities of the AOC to ensure that they're still right for our courts and our state in this changed, and constantly changing, environment.

Lastly, I released this report in May as soon as I received it and even before its presentation to the council because of the great interest in it statewide and so that we could all read it together and so that council could start to gain insight into further reflections on the implementation of the report. Today the report will be formally presented to the council in the same way in which all critical reports are handled. And today will be an opportunity for us as council to hear from the SEC, to discuss the report, and to decide how we proceed.

And as I look out, and based on the e-mail and the letters I've received, I'm heartened to see such great interest in the subject as is evidenced by all of you here today who are here to listen and comment and those who already have submitted letters and e-mails offering your views. I want to say that shouldn't come as a surprise to any of us that in our branch of trained critical thinkers, of judges and lawyers, court execs, that the report has generated intense dialogue. A number, a stew of conflicting opinions, if you will, in the branch. But I look forward to a spirited dialogue conducted professionally and civilly as befits our branch and as a judge. I anticipate it will help to yield change for the better and advance and improve our ability, both the Judicial Council’s and the branch as a whole to provide equal access justice.

Once again I thank the SEC members, including retired Presiding Administrative Justice Art Scotland who started the work, former member of the SEC and for all of your hard work. Later on, as you know, I’ve asked Justice Miller, as the chair of the council’s Executive and Planning committee to recommend a process for the council taking action regarding the recommendations made in the report.

In the interest of time and I think based on the discussions we'll have after the presentation of the report, I suggest that council discuss the report after hearing from both the chair and the vice chair of the SEC and then Justice Miller."