The report addresses the issue of how well trial court consolidation enacted by the Legislature in the mid-1990's (see AB 233, Escutia and Pringle, Chapter 850, Statutes of 1997 - known and cited by its terms as the "Lockyer–Isenberg Trial Court Funding Act of 1997") has worked, and concludes that significant problems remain, beginning with a balkanized system of determining pay, benefits and working conditions for court employees, and "inadequate state oversight over trial court performance." The report includes several recommendations to address these concerns, most involving expanding the authority of the AOC.
|Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and|
Assemblymember Charles Calderon
The California Judges Association (CJA) issued even a more firmly worded objection to the LAO report, saying it was "opposed to this complete centralization and encroachment upon the constitutional authority of local trial courts." CJA said that the report "reflects a fundamental failure to understand and acknowledge that our democracy is based upon the existence of three co-equal and separate branches of government. The judicial branch is not merely a state department under the direction of the executive or legislative branch, nor can it be centralized in the same ways as other branches of government."
The AOC and Supreme Court, on the other hand, have elected to downplay the report. Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye issued a statement saying that while the report had "appropriately engendered much discussion within the branch," the courts have more immediate and important concerns at the moment, in the form of the court funding crisis. "By necessity, the Judicial Council has been laser focused on budget matters," the Chief Justice said. "Ensuring public access to courts by restoring the judicial branch budget remains our main concern at this time and for the foreseeable future.”
Notwithstanding the Chief Justice's efforts to minimize the issues raised by the LAO report, however, the matter almost certainly will take center stage in January, 2012, when AB 1208 faces a constitutional deadline to either be approved by the Assembly or die by operation of law.