CA scraps multibillion dollar computer project


The project is, in the words of one judge, "dead." The judicial council, headed by the chief justice, spent nearly $500 million on the project over the last 10 years and it has been installed in only seven of the 58 trial courts in the state. And, even some of those courts are not happy about it.

The Service Workers Union, which represents court employees, rallied outside the state building. They called on the judicial council to scrap CCMS, the California Case Management System, the $2 billion computer project which would link all 58 county trial courts together.

Court workers say their jobs have been sacrificed to make way for the costly system. "In Alameda County, we shut the doors at 2:30. We've laid off 88 people since 2009. We've had 28 furlough days," said Alameda County Court Clerk Debbi Pearson. Because of the budget crunch, thousands of court clerks and support staff have already been laid off and courtrooms have been shut down. Yet, the judicial council which administers policy and the budget for California's Courts has continued funding the expensive project. However, it has been mired with glitches, cost overruns, and long delays over its ten-year history.

A state audit last year blasted the project and charged the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) with mismanaging it and last week, an assembly committee recommended that no more money be given to CCMS. On Tuesday, the judicial council voted to cut their losses and abandon it. "The vision of one statewide interconnected system is not feasible in the current climate," one member said.

Judicial councilmember Judge James Herman says it boiled down to money and not a flawed system. "This system does what it's supposed to do. So, in that sense, no, it's not a failure. A product was produced," he said.

The reform group "Alliance of California Judges" disagrees. They've been a longtime opponent of the project. Judge Kent Hamlin says the council should have stopped funding it long ago. "It's been a nightmare. It's been expensive. It's been clumsy and difficult to operate," he said.

The Alliance of California Judges wants an investigation into the project to see if the public is entitled to any of the $500 million that was spent on the computer system. They also want an investigation to see if anyone is criminally liable.

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