SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - In the aftermath of the decision to terminate a half-billion-dollar court computer project, supporters and detractors question whether it's really dead.
"Some people say it's like a vampire that isn't really dead until you drag its body out into the sunlight," said Orange County Judge Andrew Banks.
The governing council for California's courts voted last week to end a project that has lasted 10 years, cost the public $520 million and caused intense controversy within the state's judicial corps. But, as part of that decision, the Judicial Council decided to spend another $8.6 million.
"I think we have a semantic problem here," said council member Edith Matthai. "It doesn't mean it's terminated in the sense that it goes away never to be seen again in any shape or form. It means we take a look at what we've got and see how it can be revamped and reused."
Although Matthai is a lawyer and a non-voting member of the council, her view matches that of the administrators behind the failed project, and it was reflected in the council's vote to spend $8.6 million to both "terminate" the project and also "leverage" it.
"We remain concerned that the Judicial Council has not truly and completely abandoned this failed project," said the Alliance of California Judges in a statement.
Judge Runston Maino of San Diego, who compares the tech project to Howard Hughes' failed wood airplane, said, "Ms. Matthai's plan to go back to the drawing board to see what they have developed and to see how it can be revamped and reused makes as much sense as an airplane manufacturer taking a look at the Spruce Goose with the idea of seeing how it can be revamped and reused for current passenger needs."
But Justice Douglas Miller who chairs the council's powerful executive committee said funding for the final version of the software called CCMS V4 has in fact been halted.
"Funding for V4 has stopped, other than the approximate $2.7 million we need to shut it down," said Miller in an interview. "The additional $5 million was to take a look at the codes and see if there is something we can do with those."
'Not Spend a Penny'
At last week's meeting, the 18 voting judges on the council were given the option to kill the project entirely.
Judge David Rosenberg of Yolo County moved to give each of the state's 58 trial courts the option to choose an off-the-shelf tech system to manage cases -- and end all financing for the project.
"We don't spend a penny," he said summing up his motion.
The motion was seconded by Los Angeles Judge David Wesley, who has at times been a lone voice on the council questioning the recommendations of the Administrative Office of the Courts.
The option of allowing individual courts to buy modern case management systems off the shelf is attractive because of the relatively low cost. Last year, for example, Seattle courts bought and installed a system that allows electronic filing of court papers for $5 million.
Rosenberg's motion to not "spend a penny" was also consistent with an instruction from a California Assembly budget subcommittee to stop spending on the project. Chair Gilbert Cedillo, a Los Angeles Democrat, instructed Santa Barbara's Judge James Herman last month to "take a time out."