Judicial Council votes to give SF money for courts

September 9, 2011 9:19:16 PM PDT
The California Judicial Council, the body that runs the state's judiciary affairs, has voted to give San Francisco emergency funding to reduce layoffs and court closures, but a last minute surprise move by the council almost soured that deal.

"Outrageous, shameful, insulting," -- that's how the CEO of San Francisco's courts described that surprise move at the Judicial Council meeting Friday. He thought his court was getting $2.5 million with some strings attached, but to his surprise, the deal now on the table had conditions he had never seen.

"The Judicial Council negotiated in bad faith through its emissary. This conduct is shameful and unbecoming of any representative from the world's largest court system," said San Francisco Courts CEO Michael Yuen.

Those were the harsh words from the chief executive of San Francisco's courts. The reason he said them is because he felt betrayed.

Last week, San Francisco's courts reached an agreement with the Judicial Council's staff. The AOC, the Administrative Office of the Courts, agreed to give San Francisco $2.5 million in emergency funds to mitigate the severe cutbacks. In a one-page agreement, the deal said 14 courtrooms would close instead of 25 and 75 workers would be laid off instead of 177.

However, two days ago, the AOC came up with a much longer document with conditions which San Francisco says were never discussed, conditions which would violate its local autonomy.

Yeun had a blunt reply for the Judicial Council. He said, "Unfortunately, representations and promises made by the AOC are apparently as meaningless as an official signature."

Some of the council members who spoke were upset at Yuen's remarks.

"Quite frankly, I don't appreciate the lecture that we received because I think we're here and have been here trying to help you," said Judicial Council Member Judge Douglas Miller.

Outgoing chief administrator of the AOC Bill Vickery was outraged. He said, "Your comments at the beginning, for me at least, were an absolutely professional low in judicial administration."

In the end, council members agreed to forgo most of the new conditions. They proposed instead to make the $2.5 million a loan payable in five years.

"I don't think we can walk out of here as I once said beforehand, and allow all these courts in San Francisco to close," said Judicial Council Member Judge Burt Pines.

Yuen texted Presiding Judge Katherine Feinstein who replied that a loan would be acceptable.

So it looks like those cutbacks will be less severe, now that San Francisco's courts will receive $2.5 million in emergency funding.

The reform-minded Alliance Of California judges issued a statement on Friday saying the council still has $82 million in emergency money, which it should give to all courts which have to make cuts.


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