Capitol Alert

New skirmish erupts among California judges

The Napa County courthouse was damaged in a 6.0 earthquake on Sunday August 24, 2014.
The Napa County courthouse was damaged in a 6.0 earthquake on Sunday August 24, 2014.

A new skirmish has erupted in the long-running war of words between the state’s judicial hierarchy and a band of rebel judges.

The Alliance of California Judges has for several years accused the State Judicial Council and the Administrative Office of the Courts, both headed by Chief Justice Tani Cantil Sakauye, of neglecting the needs of local trial courts, especially for money, while maintaining a bloated bureaucracy in San Francisco.

The feud has had several aspects but the most contentious was the AOC’s spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a centralized and computerized case management system that proved to be unworkable.

Much of the rebels’ ire was directed at Curtis Child, the AOC’s chief operating officer who had been the failed system’s chief advocate, and who finally stepped down last March.

Child is now the center of the latest flap because he’s gone to work for CourtCall, a Los Angeles company that sells a technology platform that allows witnesses and others to make video appearances at court proceedings.

Last month, judges throughout the state received emails from Child announcing that he had joined CourtCall, which is already in use in some local courts, and expressing “hope that we will have the opportunity to work together on ways to create greater efficiencies in the judicial process.”

Child’s emails raised the ire of many judges, especially those affiliated with the Alliance of California Judges, and they raised Cain with Martin Hoshino, the AOL’s administrative director, about how Child obtained their email addresses to make what they regarded as an initial sales pitch.

In response to an inquiry from Sacramento Judge Maryanne Gilliard, Hoshino replied that he didn’t know how Child obtained the email addresses and “to my knowledge, no person at the Judicial Council or its staff would approve of the release of this information to him or any party for that matter.”

Gilliard, a principal figure in the rebel judges’ organization, told Hoshino, “It appears, at this point, Mr. Child is cashing in on his time at the top of the central bureaucracy to the detriment of other companies that may wish to compete for these services.”

Child has not responded to inquiries from the Sacramento Bee and other media outlets about his emails. Hoshino has promised to investigate how he obtained the email addresses.