Loren E. McMaster

Another View: 'Dissidents' in court debate are the heroes

Published: Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 2E

Our state has been mired in a deep recession for the past several years. All branches of government have suffered.

I have a different take than The Bee's editorial board on what suffering has occurred within the judicial branch and who is responsible for it ("Local court loses amid raids, bad decisions"; Editorials, Jan. 16).

It is an undisputed fact that the Administrative Office of the Courts, under the "direction" of a handpicked Judicial Council, wasted more than a half-billion dollars on a failed computer system that would still be siphoning off precious public dollars had the Legislature and concerned judges not intervened.

It is also undisputed that while the AOC was pouring public money down this computer hole, local courts up and down the state were closing courthouses, laying off valuable and needed employees, and reducing hours of service to their communities.

We now discover that, contrary to the advice of the independent Legislative Analyst's Office, the AOC entered into a construction and maintenance contract that will cost the taxpayers an average of $61 million a year for the next 35 years. What is particularly galling is that this contract was for only one courthouse.

Many judges and others have weighed in against the bloat and mismanagement of the AOC, only to be branded as "dissidents." Is that term also meant for our extraordinarily professional state Auditor Elaine Howle who, in addition to judges, blew the whistle on the failed computer system? Is the term "dissidents" to be applied to members of a committee who were appointed by the chief justice of the California Supreme Court to do a thorough examination of the AOC and who found pervasive mismanagement and incompetence? Is the term "dissidents" meant for those members of the press who revealed that an AOC attorney was permitted to telecommute from Switzerland? Or to those who revealed that the top 30 AOC bureaucrats pay nothing into their pension, leaving it to the public to foot the entire bill?

I applaud those judges, the state auditor, the legislative analyst, the Legislature and members of the press for having the courage to speak up. Counseling judges to remain silent for the sole purpose of getting "on the same page" as those who have permitted the waste of these funds is wrong. As independent constitutional officers, judges have a right and a responsibility to speak up and push for transparency and for a democratically elected Judicial Council. Let's hope they will continue to do so.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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