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YouTube Video Satirizes Court Tech Project

The YouTube cartoon starts with a cartoon judge who looks a bit like Betty Boop and a thuggish looking man in a track suit who says, "Just put the money in the bag." What follows is a satire of the IT system for California's courts now predicted to cost $3 billion. While the cartoon has been viewed only 700 times, it is likely the cognoscenti who are watching, those who are in a position to influence the fate of the oft-maligned system.

The title to the vignette suggests why it's viewership is likely to stay small: "Case Mismanagement: A Chat about CCMS."

"I need $150 million," says the thug.

"Why?" the judge questions.

"For my case management system."

"The taxpayers have already given you $600 million for that piece of trash," says the judge.

Satire and mockery can cover a lot of rhetorical ground in a short distance, as the YouTube cartoon does. It mocks the techno jibberish that starts with consultants and comes out through state court administrators who defend enormous contracts with Deloitte Consulting to build the Court Case Management System.

The thug who represents the statewide administrators says he needs $150 million to "make changes that conform to the specified core activities in keeping with best management practices."

But he quickly switches from management gobbledygook to the plain language of the street when it comes to demanding money, "Just put the money in the bag."

Among the serious points made by the video is a reference to the federal system that is much further along the road to the digital revolution.

"The federal courts have a case management system that has been in place for a long time," says the cartoon judge. "It works. Why did you have to build one from scratch?"

"We just need to tweak it."

"Tweak it with a sledge hammer," she says. "I think that will take care of it."

The video also spoofs the arguments by administrators suggesting the program is a success and well liked in the courts where it is used.

"It's a very popular program," says the thug.

"No, it isn't," the judge shoots back. "It is only popular with those who profited from it, including managers who staked their reputation on it and contractors who have been enriched by it. Employees hate it."

As with satire in general, the dialogue in the alternate forum of can sum up points that take more time to establish with conventional argument, such as the fact that the IT system is cumbersome and requires a great deal more time than earlier systems for tracking case developments the very opposite of the efficiency that technology is supposed to promote.

In attacking that IT system, the YouTube video hits a second time on the techno babble used to promote the system, when the thug says the system "provides a robust form of access to the court system that allows vertical optimization of value-added metrics."

The cartoon judge points out that the newfangled software is not compatible with any word processing system.

"It takes normal text and converts it to nonsense," she says. "It wastes time. It has reduced court employees to tears. It has caused knowledgeable and valuable court employees to quit in disgust."

The judge, who has the reflective eyes and a bit of the hair style of Betty Boop in a black and white cartoon, also attacks on the priorities apparently espoused by the administrators.

"You could have bought a high-speed train," she says. "You could have educated children. You could have kept courts open."

Reflecting the dilemma posed by any decision to halt development of the exhorbitant IT program, the cartoon thug says, "But you will be wasting all that money we have spent."

Answers the judge, "You sound like a crazy old lady at a slot machine who thinks if she keeps playing she will win back the money she lost. Get away from the slot machine and quit playing with taxpayers' money."

Fighting on a number of fronts in the ongoing conflict between a group of trial judges and the central administrators, the satire also points to a recent set of rule changes that would elevate the power of the top local administrator while diminishing the power of the presiding judge.

Crucially, the rule changes would also put all technology decisions in the hands of a court administrator.

"I know you think you run the court, but you delegated that to others," says the track-suited thug in a pointed reference to those rule changes. "I do not have time for this and you do not have time to interfere. Just put the money in the bag."

As the video winds up, it hints at a cozy relationship between the Administrative Office of the Courts and Deloitte when the thug says, "I'm having dinner with a contractor. You are making me late."

A parting shot suggests the earnest drive of many judges in seeking to turn off the money guzzling Cadillac that they see in the IT system, called the Court Case Management System.

"You have no plan B," says the AOC character.

"Plan B," says the judge, "is keep the courts open and close down the case management system."

While the author of the YouTube piece is identified only as LoyalDragonSlayer, the name itself suggests that the author or authors are judges who are loyal to the judicial system but seek to slay the dragon of the Administrative Office of the Courts.

The position reflects a growing movement among the state's judges, not traditionally known as firebrands, to organize themselves and take the battle back to the administrators who are pressing forward with the IT system.

In challenging the administrators, the YouTube piece discusses the division that is emerging between some judges who are digging in to defend the administrators and those who are attacking what they see as foolish spending on a doomed project.

"Most importantly," says the judge, "it has divided judges over the proper role of the AOC. Is any computer program worth a divided judiciary?"

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