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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Bureaucracy Plan to Add Lobbyist Criticized

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Despite a hiring freeze, the central administration of California's courts is hiring another staff lobbyist while the same officials are fighting a bill to limit their power over the judiciary's purse.

A job listing posted on the California Judicial Branch website earlier this month seeks a "Senior Governmental Affairs Analyst" to lobby the Legislature on behalf of the Judicial Council "on budget, legislative and policy issues of concern to the Council."

The trial courts themselves are facing severe budget cuts that are expected to force the layoff of hundreds of trial court employees around California. "As we begin to layoff, the AOC is hiring," said San Diego Judge Runston Maino.

The Administrative Office of the Courts has had a hiring freeze in place for three years, said a spokesperson for the office. However, exceptions are made for "urgent, critically needed positions," which must be approved by interim AOC director Ron Overholt.

Meanwhile, cash-strapped courts are laying off court workers.

In Los Angeles, Presiding Judge Lee Edmon of Los Angeles has said the court "will have to make more than 600 layoffs in October 2012 and another 400-plus layoffs in April of 2014."

In December, former presiding judge for San Joaquin County Superior Robin Appel and her head clerk begged the governing council of the courts for $2 million to keep the court running through the end of the fiscal year. Without the funds, Appel said, the court would be forced to close half its civil departments.

The court already lost 42 employees, she told the council, and while her court should employ 450 people, it is severely understaffed at 250.

Throughout California, it is difficult to get through a conversation with a trial court official without hearing a reference to "staff shortage."

In that environment, the posting of a job for an additional lobbyist does not sit well with judges like Maino. He noted the money is being spent for another lobbyist as a State Assembly vote looms for a trial court funding bill that is supported by many trial judges but opposed by the central administrators.

"We are down 16% staffing, so rather than the AOC hiring what appears to be a lobbyist, it would be better if we got that money to hire someone who will actually work in the courts and assist the public rather than to assist the AOC bureaucracy," Maino said.

Last month, the AOC also added a posting for a real estate portfolio manager for its court construction office. "It is hard for me to see this position as being critical by any definition of that word," Maino said.

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