(CN) – The longtime lobbyist for California’s judicial bureaucracy, Curt Child, is leaving his post at the end of the month.
Child’s departure comes about eight months after Martin Hoshino was hired as director of the roughly 800-person court administrative office based in San Francisco. In a Monday memo to members of the Judicial Council, Hoshino lauded Child’s contributions to the judiciary, saying, “Curt has brought great energy and commitment to his leadership role in service to the council and the judicial branch.”
An organization that has often criticized the size of the court bureaucracy welcomed the attrition at the top.
“The Alliance of California Judges has been calling for cuts to the AOC’s over-larded bureaucracy for years, all this while local court resources have been decimated,” said Judge Steve White, president of the Alliance.
Child was hired as head lobbyist for the court bureacracy in 2007, and he became chief operating officer in 2012. He came to the courts from the California Department of Child Support Services, after graduating from the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento in 1984.
His years with the court bureacracy were marked by his promotion and defense of a project to unite the state’s 58 trial courts under a single software system called the Court Case Management System
As years passed and the project soaked up hundreds of millions of dollars in scarce funds, the project came under a relentless barrage of criticism from legislators, trial judges, court employees and union leaders who said it was already obsolete while it continued to drain enormous sums from the court budget, at a time of fiscal crisis for the courts.
The State Auditor issued a scathing report in 2011 saying bureaucrats had exercised “poor management” of the IT project and disguised its true $1.9 billion cost. The Judicial Council pulled the plug a year later.
That same year, Child left the judicialy bureaucracy’s lobbying arm to become its first chief operating officer, after a rushed and controversial agency restructuring, justified by a judicial committe’s report recommending cuts to the staff’s myriad leadership positions.
Child’s office tenure has been steeped in controversy, as his office was also involved in slipping an amendment into an under-the-radar trailer bill during the Legislature’s 2008-2009 session that would have seized authority from local courts over the selection of their presiding judges and court clerks.
The issue remained contentious for many years, as trial judges were stymied in their efforts to uncover the principle actors behind the gambit. But a series of emails eventually came out showing that an assistant director in the office of governmental affairs headed by Child had sent proposed legislative language to the state finance department, crossing out the authority of the trial courts to appoint their own clerks and presiding judges and giving it instead to the Judicial Council.
The council is dominated by the administrative staff, according to the State Auditor in her February audit.
On a separate matter of controversy, Child, as one of the old guard in the judicial bureaucracy, was able to keep his 22% pension contribution paid fully by the taxpayers. The lavish pension plan was reserved for the top 30 officials in the bureaucracy, a type of favoritism that is not allowed under federal law. State agencies are exempt from that law.
It has since been abolished for incoming officials, such as Hoshino, but the old guard continued to receive the benefit.
Judge White with the Alliance in comments made Tuesday pointed to the privations that have been placed on the trial courts because of budget cuts and excess spending by the judicial bureaucracy, including the hundreds of millions of dollars wasted on the software project.
“Today, for example, six of Sacramento’s courtrooms are dark because we haven’t the resources to provide necessary court reporters and other staff. Yesterday we had four such closed courts,” said White. “Tomorrow a new tale of triage will supply a different number of closed courts. So losing one of the highest paid staffers at the Administrative OIffice of the Courts, indeed in all of California government, seems a small step in the right direction.”
The California Judges Association did not respond to telephone and email requests for comment.
In his memo, Hoshino said Child would be taking a new job at an undisclosed “national firm” that will “enable him to continue to work with judges, courts, and the public to improve and extend access to justice and improve court efficiencies.”
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