Cost of Court Computer System Is Driving|Hundreds Out of Work, Union Rep Says

     SACRAMENTO (CN) – The cost of California’s Court Computer Management System could put hundreds of court employees out of work, a union representative told the Assembly’s Budget Committee on Tuesday. Estimated at $260 million 8 years ago, the cost has ballooned to $2 billion and is draining the budget of Los Angeles Superior Court, whose workers she represents, said AFSCME Local 3302 President Karen Norwood. Norwood said the money allocated for the program could keep 329 employees from being laid off – and the system doesn’t even work in Los Angeles.

     “The system does not function properly in our courts,” said Norwood, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3302. She added that only Los Angeles Superior’s small claims court actually uses CCMS. “It is completely substandard,” Norwood said.
     Started in 2002, CCMS was intended to make court computer systems uniform and allow courts to share information. Touted by Chief Justice Ronald George, it was slated to cost $260.2 million, but Norwood said its cost has ballooned to $2 billion.
Prone to glitches and outages, the system has drawn criticism from court employees and judges, most recently from Sacramento Superior Court Judge Trena Burger-Plavan, who said Monday that judges have “complained and complained and complained” to the Administrative Office of the Courts, which runs CCMS. The AOC and its consultant Deloitte Consulting have been criticized for failing to fix the problems.
Sacramento County Superior Court pulled the plug on its out-of-state CCMS connection on Monday, opting to run CCMS on its own local network. Executive Officer of the Court Dennis Jones said in an interview that moving the operation from Arizona would be cheaper and more efficient, costing about $1 million over 5 years to make the switch.
     “The benefit for having the system here instead of Arizona is that it will make [CCMS] work better for us,” said Jones, noting the “response time and down time issues” Sacramento Superior has had with the Arizona server.
     “Of course, systems cost a lot, and if you’re a union representative you probably want to see that money going to employees. Allocating funds is always hard, and of course we want to see our employees treated well.”
Jones said Orange County Superior Court has already installed its own CCMS server, and it has worked well. But that’s not the case for Los Angeles Superior, which also runs its own CCMS server.
     Norwood, the only court representative to attend Tuesday’s budget meeting, said in an interview afterward that the money allocated for the program could keep 329 employees from being laid off.
     “We’re in a devastating situation,” she said. “The system is so substandard that only one of our courts even uses it. We actually brought the person who runs it to Sacramento to testify on how substandard it is. And that money is enough to stop the layoffs of those 329 people, keep the courts open five days a week, or keep the CASA program open, which helps foster children.”
     While she said she could not speak on their behalf, Norwood said that Local 3302 has “an alliance of judges that are adamantly against the program.”
Warren Furutani, the chairman of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on State Administration, said he understood Norwood’s concerns, but that the committee would hold off on making a decision about whether to renew funding for CCMS until a vote in May.

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