It’s hard for me to estimate the likely long term impact of the unhappiness among some California judges, as reported here in the LA Times.
At issue is whether the court system should continue to be run centrally by the chief justice and his or her appointees, or whether elected judges and the trial courts should call more of the shots, including on how money is spent.
The Alliance of California Judges pits itself against the Administrative Office of the Courts, the bureaucracy in San Francisco that runs the judicial branch under the supervision of the Judicial Council, the governing and policy-setting body headed and run by the chief justice.
“It has deliberately and recklessly advocated for its own parochial interests … while trial court operations have suffered from furloughs, courthouse closures and layoffs,” alliance directors wrote to “fellow judges” in a January letter.
The alliance claims about 350 of the state’s 1,700 judges are members, but says many want their names kept secret because they fear reprisals — a perception that the state’s chief justice, Tani Cantil-Sakauye, says mystifies her.
While the rebellion has many elements, and has gotten more attention because of a recent audit of the states centralized case management system (NYT article), the core problem seems to me to be related to professional anxiety. It is hard for judges, just as it is for other professionals, to recognize that organizational structures change with technology and with an increased understanding of the need of coherent institutional reforms.
In my various consultant work and other collaborations with the California courts I have again and again seen the value of statewide leadership. Would we have the Shriver counsel project, the wonderful self-help website, the network of self-help centers, or many other innovations without a strong and effective AOC?
We live in the twenty-first century, and must have appropriate management structures for these times.