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Tuesday, June 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

California Senate Wants to Know| ‘What Went Wrong’ With Court IT Project

SACRAMENTO (CN) - A California Senate budget subcommittee voted Thursday to require the judiciary to prepare a report outlining "what went wrong" with a court computer system that has cost the state over $500 million.

"I think we really need some analysis by the branch of what went so wrong, and I'm very interested in what we need to do to ensure that this does not happen again," Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, said.

The Court Case Management System was recently terminated by the Judicial Council, after nine years of development and $521 million. It was condemned by trial judges as a boondoggle and skewered by the state auditor in a report that sharply criticized the administrators for mismanagement and out-of-control costs.

"Either there was real lack of sophistication in the bid process from the perspective of the courts so that the enormous leaps in change orders and costs were things that should have been predicted, or there were some enormous lapses on the part of Deloitte, the contractor, on making cost estimates that were so very wrong," Hancock continued. "We need to understand this because we need to do a better job."

The Senate committee put off voting on recommendations made by the Legislative Analyst last week that the Legislature send all the money saved by ending the project directly to the trial courts. The committee also did not vote on the analyst's recommendation that it exercise more control over the judiciary's finances.

Instead, committee chair Hancock said the state's Department of Finance should look over the recommendations, as well as those from the Administrative Office of the Courts. "My recommendation is going to be that we hold this open until the AOC has had time to come up with a more detailed plan and Department of Finance has had time to review the issues raised by the LAO," she said.

Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed budget for the judicial branch for fiscal year 2012-13 is roughly $3.1 billion. In the past four years, it has seen $653 million in cuts.

At Thursday's hearing, interim AOC Deputy Director Curt Soderlund asked that the Legislature not strip the Judicial Council's authority to allocate this year's budget cuts. "We're asking that you allow the council to keep the discretion it currently enjoys," Soderlund said.

The legislative analyst also recommended that the judiciary delay courthouse building projects that aren't currently under construction for one year, and cancel 12 "less immediate projects," and use the money saved to help bail out the struggling courts.

Karen Norwood with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees agreed with that suggestion. "If you're going to lay off 369 people as of June 29, who's going to work in the courts they want to build?" she asked.

Norwood added that while the council voted to terminate CCMS, $8.6 million is still being spent to salvage the technology on which it was built. "That includes outrageous salaries for consultants who will be brought in to try to explain the system to AOC personnel. That comes out to a yearly rate of $200,000 each," she said. "This is wasteful spending. We need to provide justice for our public and we also need to keep the courts open. We ask the Legislature to redirect the money to the trial courts, not the AOC. They had the money, and now this is where we are."

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