A new technology roadmap for California's courts has resulted in sharply divergent reactions as it carries its cartographers' hopes of convincing the Legislature to approve new funds in the aftermath of an earlier technology fiasco.
In charge of the new plan for a "digital court" is the Judicial Council's Technology Committee, a body that has been hammered over the failure of an ambitious, wasteful, mismanaged and now-defunct software project called the Court Case Management System.
The 26- page plan unveiled last week seeks to set new standards for court technology, set priorities and recommend how to pay the bill. Long on general phrasing and short on specifics, it was drawn with the Legislature and its purse string power in mind.
"I don't personally have a lot of confidence in the current efforts," said Judge Andy Banks of Orange County, "in large part because of the integral involvement of people who were so invested in CCMS and its defense."
Judge David Lampe in Kern County said the first problem with the road map is that the Judicial Council does not have the power to tell local courts what to do.
"The Judicial Council is not the governing body of the courts," said Lampe. "It has no constitutional or statutory authority to dictate IT policy to the independent superior courts of the state."
"The other problem with the policy," he said, "is that it is being supervised and developed by the same individuals who presided over the disastrous CCMS fiasco, which cost the public over $500 million of public funds."
The newly adopted plan called the Judicial Branch Technology, Governance, Strategy, and Funding Proposal -- better known as the "technology roadmap" -- is being touted as the only way to move forward in the aftermath of CCMS.
"Our current funding situation is bleak or uncertain," said Justice Judith Ashmann-Gerst at the council meeting week. "We have to rebuild our credibility, with the Department of Finance, with the Legislature, with the executive branch, for managing tech projects so that we can build the case for restoring funding for technology."
Referring to the governor's technology agency, she said, "It was made clear that without a good strategic plan the branch just wasn't going to get any funds for technology."
On a related issue, the Legislature also made clear last year that a condition of receiving the current budget funds was that the council must open its myriad committees and task forces to the press and public.
A rule proposed by the council late last year to open the committees is criticized as so riddled with exceptions and conditions that they eat up the rule. The proposed rule is now up for public comment.
Illustrating the closed-door nature of the committees, none of the meetings of the Technology Committee or its underlying task force that resulted in the roadmap were open to press and public.
Nor does the roadmap suggest they will be in the future.
The central player in the development of the new plan is the Technology Committee, which is also the source of much of the doubt over its chance for success.