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Reactions to Jerry Brown’s May budget revision

From Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles:

“The Governor’s May Budget Revision is another key milestone in our effort to pass a balanced on-time budget by June 15th. We appreciate the Governor’s commitment to maintaining the fiscal stability that has come from an improving economy, legislative Democrats making tough but necessary budget cuts, voters approving the majority-vote budget and voters standing with Democrats in supporting temporary tax revenues. We will review the Governor’s proposals and revenue projections, along with the LAO’s revenue projections, in depth, and his revised budget will be thoroughly discussed throughout the Budget committee and subcommittee process. Assemblymembers will review the Governor’s proposal through the prism of principles outlined in our Blueprint for a Responsible Budget: continuing fiscal responsibility, strengthening the middle class, and delivering effective, efficient services for Californians. On the whole, the Governor’s framework and the Assembly’s Blueprint seem to track well, and we’ll spend the next month reconciling our priorities.”

From Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, R-Visalia:

“Governor Brown today put forward a revised state spending plan that I believe charts a realistic path forward in meeting the budget priorities of hard-working taxpayers. Republicans share the Governor’s commitment to paying down state debt and holding the line on new spending. It is our hope that Legislative Democrats will follow the Governor’s lead in making fiscal discipline a core budget principle. We must resist the temptation to blow through the surplus using one-time money for ongoing programs and reverse the progress we’ve made in closing the deficit.”

From state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento:

“Overall, this May Revision is a refreshing change. For the first time in four years, we no longer have to stare at enormous deficits and make agonizing decisions on which cuts will do the least harm to our children, to the poor, and to middle class families.

“That’s the politically correct thing to say, and it happens to be true.

“I agree we must aggressively pay down our state’s debt and set aside money for a reserve, but there’s a disappointing aspect to this proposal. It’s important that we also begin making up for some of the damage done to tens of thousands of Californians. Unless the Legislative Analyst has a different conclusion, the Governor proposes few if any resources to restore cuts made over the past few years to the courts, and to health and human services.

“The Governor’s Local Control Funding Formula is the right policy direction, but our serious concern about how it’s accomplished remains. The concentration grants treat thousands of disadvantaged students unequally. It also fails to expand the proven success of career pathway programs which can reduce dropout rates and improve our kids’ readiness for the workforce by combining rigorous curriculum that’s also relevant to students’ career goals.

“The budget debate begins in earnest. I look forward to a deeper analysis of revenue projections in the coming weeks while we continue to work with the Governor on the best budget for California’s economic recovery and its people.”

From state Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Brea:

“The Governor has revenue estimates that are lower than anyone expected, largely due to the increased payroll tax suppressing the economy. Higher tax rates and continuing high unemployment mean less money in people’s pockets and less money to propel the economy.

“We have common ground with the Governor in a belief that we cannot return to a culture of overspending that drives new budget crises. Governor Brown referred to this as a ‘Call for Prudence,’ we would call it ‘Common Sense.’ It seems that the Governor’s biggest budget challenge will be in restraining legislative Democrats and their growing wish list of new spending.

“Senate Republicans continue to believe that the State must meet the promises of the voter approved Proposition 30 tax increase measure by increasing funding for K-14 and higher education. We also believe that the Governor should support our efforts to allow Californians to vote on the bi-partisan rainy day reserve fund that had been previously scheduled for the 2012 ballot. Implementing a voter approved rainy day reserve requirement is the best way to protect against future budget crises and ensure stability.

“The Legislature should spend less time on a growing list of additional tax proposals such as soda taxes, oil severance taxes, tobacco taxes and several property tax measures that undermine historic Proposition 13 protections and instead focus on the growing public safety crises caused by the passage of AB 109, the Governor’s Public Safety Realignment scheme that has shifted 65,000 criminals from state prison to our local communities and neighborhoods.”

From California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye:

“I’m disappointed that the Governor’s revised budget proposals provide no more fiscal relief to the courts. Given the state’s current fiscal condition, I had hoped for more effort to help stop the downward spiral of the judicial branch budget. Courts across the state are already closing courthouses, courtrooms, and reducing the hours they serve the public. Without reinvestment in the courts, these terrible impacts will only expand, and the poor and middle class residents who rely on the courts to resolve issues that affect their lives and livelihoods will be adversely affected, as well those businesses still digging out from the effects of the great recession. We need adequate, ongoing funding for the courts that will permit us to reverse the damage caused by five years of budget cuts. The reforms I’ve put in place have helped save money and created more efficiencies. We needed critical support a year ago from the other two branches and now the need for justice is urgent. I am heartened by Speaker Perez’s comments last week about the need to begin reinvesting in the courts. I am optimistic that the Legislature and the Governor can work toward reversing some of the adverse impacts on access to justice before a budget bill is passed and signed.”

There’s a whole lot more, after the jump…
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Jerry Brown touts growing diversity among judges

Gov. Jerry Brown is touting the increased diversity he’s bringing to state courts.

Brown’s office announced today that he has made 90 judicial appointments since taking office, drawing from a pool of 1,168 applicants. Women accounted for about a third of the applicant pool and more than 34 percent of Brown’s appointments; about 34 percent of the applicants identified themselves as ethnic minorities, and 37 percent of Brown’s appointments came from among these.

Brown’s 2012 appointments included Halim Dhanidina, the first American-Muslim judge ever appointed in California; Jim Humes, the first openly gay justice to serve on the California Court of Appeal; Miguel Marquez, the first Latino justice to serve on the Sixth District Court of Appeal; Rosendo Peña, the first Latino justice to serve on the Fifth District Court of Appeal; Chris Doehle, the first female judge to serve on the Del Norte County Superior Court; Kimberly Colwell, the first openly lesbian judge to be appointed to the Alameda County Superior Court; and Mark Andrew Talamantes, the first Latino judge to serve on the Marin County Superior Court.

Brown’s office also noted this is the first time in the state’s history that a Latino or Latina is serving on all six state Courts of Appeal.

The state’s Administrative Office of the Courts reported that overall diversity on the California bench has been increasing gradually since 2006.

State laws require the governor to disclose judicial applicants’ demographic data every year by March 1.

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Longtime legislative aide goes to bat for courts

A longtime Bay Area legislative staffer has been hired to head the state court system’s governmental affairs office – and lead the courts’ fight against draconian budget cuts by the Legislature and governor.

Cory Jasperson was hired by California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye at the recommendation of a Judicial Council search committee led by Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvin Baxter. Jasperson, 42, will start Dec. 3 as a replacement for Curt Child, who was promoted last month to become the Administrative Office of the Courts’ chief operating officer.

“The search committee was very impressed with Cory Jasperson’s personal attributes, professional experience, and outstanding reputation he has earned in the Capitol,” Baxter said in a news release. “We are confident that he will lead the Office of Governmental Affairs with great distinction.”

Jasperson currently is chief of staff to state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, who is term-limited out at the end of this year and is about to start a term on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. Earlier, Jasperson served as a top aide to other lawmakers including Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, and Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, D-Mountain View.

Jasperson, in the courts’ news release, said he’s eager to get to work. “I strongly believe that our democracy requires a vibrant and independent judiciary to provide access to justice for all Californians. At the same time, I am acutely aware of the challenges faced by all three branches because of the state’s fiscal crisis.”

Indeed, Jasperson is in for quite a ride: The California judicial system’s budget has been cut by 30 percent since the 2008-2009 fiscal year, leading to layoffs, reduced hours and services, and delayed or cancelled construction projects.

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State courts’ top bureaucrat resigns

A former Alameda County Superior Court executive from Danville resigned his post as the California court system’s interim top bureaucrat yesterday, months after an investigative report detailed lavish spending on food, drink and hotels even while cash-strapped courts cut their services. (ed. note: Please see update at bottom of this post.)

Ron OverholtRonald Overholt, 59, submitted his resignation to California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye on Wednesday. The Judicial Council is meeting in closed session today to choose a new interim director for the Administrative Office of the Courts while the national search for a permanent director continues; Overholt said he’ll stick around long enough to ensure a smooth transition.

“My decision is based on a number of factors,” Overholt said in a news release issued this morning. “Among them is that the position of Administrative Director of the Courts has become a lightning rod for controversy, impacting the focus on budget discussions, Judicial Council governance of the judicial branch, and the AOC itself. By making this difficult choice, I hope that my decision will help refocus attention on the critical issues at hand—budget restoration, the future of the branch, and the stability of the AOC.”

Cantil-Sakauye, in the same release, called Overholt’s decision understandable but unfortunate, and said his departure “is a great loss not only for the AOC but also for the state judicial branch. But we respect his judgment that a transition is necessary at this time for him and for the court system he has served so well.”

She said his service since last July as the Administrative Office of the Courts’ interim director was “exemplary and has served to enhance access to justice and public trust and confidence in our justice system.”

San Diego’s Channel 10 news, an ABC affiliate, reported in November that Overholt and his predecessor, longtime AOC Director William Vickrey, since 2009 had “been spending tax dollars on steaks, martinis and hotel stays” with trips to Vail, Colo.; Charlotte; Boston; Santa Fe, N.M.; Denver; Indian Wells; and Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, courts across the state have had to cut workforces and service hours in order to stay afloat amid deep budget cuts.

This sparked some lawmakers’ ire. “Spending hundreds of dollars on steak and lobster and alcoholic beverages is just wrong and it’s out of touch and it’s got to stop,” Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego, told Channel 10.

Fletcher has been on the warpath against the AOC as recently as last week for what he says are excessive construction costs, salaries and pensions as well as a statewide court computer system for which costs have spiraled out of control:

In today’s news release, Overholt noted that the past three budget years have “created unprecedented challenges for the state and prompted a reassessment of resources and priorities for all areas of government” and led to deep cuts and reorganizations at the AOC.

“In the anxiety-generating climate of this fiscal crisis, the AOC’s role in serving the council to advance access to justice on a statewide basis has unfairly become an easy target,” he said. “Every organization has room for improvement, and where merited, the AOC has taken corrective action and is continuing to do so. Where issues raised have been without merit, we have worked hard to correct misinformation. AOC directors, managers, and staff have devoted incredible time and effort on a daily basis to do more with less and to deliver critical services to the courts and the public.”

Overholt was the AOC’s chief deputy director for 11 years before taking the interim director’s job last summer. Before that, he was the Alameda County Superior Court’s executive officer for nine years and it’s second-in-command for three years; earlier still, he worked in the San Diego County Superior Court.

UPDATE @ 4:12 P.M.: Cantil-Sakauye just announced that the Judicial Council has approved Jody Patel as the AOC’s new interim administrative director, effective next Tuesday, Feb. 14. Patel said in a news release that she’s honored but doesn’t intend to seek the job permanently.

“When the permanent director comes on board, I hope that I can transfer to him or her a well-functioning organization and I will help in any way I can with the transition,” she said.

Patel has served since 2006 as the AOC’s regional administrative director, representing the state courts in meetings around the state and serving as a liaison to trial courts. Earlier, she had been the Sacramento County Superior Court’s executive since 2001.

UPDATE @ 3:50 P.M. FRIDAY: AOC spokesman Philip Carrizosa just sent me his office’s refutation of the Channel 10 report on Overholt’s and Vickrey’s spending. Read it in its entirety, after the jump…
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East Bay man becomes courts’ top administrator

A Danville man and former Alameda County Superior Court administrator is taking over as the California court system’s top bureaucrat, just as the courts face crippling budget cuts.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye announced today that she and the Judicial Council approved the appointment of Ronald Overholt, 59, as interim Administrative Director of the California Courts, effective Sept. 10. He’ll succeed William Vickrey, who will retire Sept. 9 after doing that job for 19 years.

“As Chief Deputy Director of the AOC for the past 11 years and as a highly experienced former trial court executive, Ron is intimately familiar with the statewide budget process and many other aspects of court administration,” Cantil-Sakauye said in a news release. “I look forward to working with Ron and have confidence that he will continue the highest standards of leadership.”

Overholt has been the Administrative Office of the Court’s chief deputy director since 2000; before that, he had been the Executive Officer, Jury Commissioner, and Clerk of the Superior Court of Alameda County. He also had been a manager in the San Diego County courts from 1979 to 1988. In 2010, he received the National Center for State Courts‘ Distinguished Service Award, one of the highest honors bestowed by the national organization. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from National University in San Diego and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from San Diego State University. Overholt and his wife, PJ, have a daughter, Blaire.

Overholt, in the news release, said he’s honored by the promotion: “I could not be more proud to be a member of the staff of the AOC and to lead its work.”

Temporarily, at least. The Judicial Council also Friday authorized Cantil-Sakauye to appoint a committee to develop a process for selecting a permanent director.

It might be a largely thankless job. The Judicial Council on Friday voted unanimously to stand by its plan for apportioning out the $350 million in cuts necessitated by the Legislature’s 2011-2012 budget. The council rejected trial judges’ pleas for deeper bureaucratic cuts to protect their courtrooms – the system’s main interface with the public – from widespread closures that will make the wheels of civil justice grind even slower.