A little more than a week after California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye stressed the need to continue work on the California Court Case Management System (CCMS), State Auditor Elaine Howle recommended that the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) delay moving forward with installing the system.
In a report issued today by the Los Angeles Times, the auditor recommended work on CCMS should be halted until an independent reevaluation is conducted of potential problems. The article notes that the cost of CCMS could increase from the original estimate of $260 million to a staggering $1.9 billion.
Howle wrote to Governor Jerry Brown that the AOC “has not analyzed whether the project would be a cost-beneficial solution to the superior courts’ technology needs and it is unclear on what information the AOC made critical decisions during the project’s planning and development.”
In a recent speech to an audience of judges, court executives and justice system partners at the CCMS Governance Conference, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye said the failure to adopt CCMS would put the state in danger of falling behind other states in its ability to deliver justice swiftly and transparently.
“When I am asked why we continue to invest in CCMS even in the face of budget reductions, my response is that I cannot think of a better investment in the future of our courts, or for that matter our courts here and now,” said Hon. Cantil-Sakauye in a press release issued by the Judicial Council of California, Administrative Office of the Courts.
In response to the auditor’s report, The Judicial Council today issued a press release responding to the audit. The release states that the Council agrees with most of the recommendations made in the audit.
“The Judicial Council is largely in agreement with the (Bureau of State Audits) recommendations and in many instances has already adopted practices and policies consistent with the recommendations made,” said William C. Vickrey, Administrative Director of the Courts, in the release. “We very much appreciate the thorough nature of the audit and the obvious care in which the report was written. Most of the findings in the report refer to past practices in the oversight of the project.”
“Now, we have to focus on the implementation of a system that will bring the California courts into the 21st century,” added Justice Terence L. Bruiniers, chair of the Judicial Council’s CCMS Executive Committee. “Deployment is already beginning in the three early adopter courts. Eventually, courts throughout the state will have access to all pertinent information involving the cases that come before them, increasing both efficiency and public safety.”
One thing that is for certain is that the auditor’s recommendation will be reviewed thoroughly by Gov. Brown. After all, he recently proposed $200 million in cuts to the budget of the State’s Judicial Branch, and putting CCMS on hold could certainly get him close to that goal.
Courts are clearly split on the merits of CCMS. Orange County, for example, has been able to demonstrate that CCMS is compatible with the Court’s eFiling gateway, where documents are electronically filed directly into the Court’s CCMS implementation. Other courts remain reluctant to implement CCMS and the auditor’s report will likely add to that reluctance, at least in the near future.