Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Monday, Apr. 30, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

A professional-quality video clip that popped up on YouTube depicts physical deficiencies in California courtrooms and makes the case for building new courthouses and rehabbing old ones.

The video, containing scene after scene of overcrowded courtrooms, mouse traps and water damage, was produced for the Judicial Council, the San Francisco-based policymaking body for California’s court system.

It’s ammunition in the latest skirmish between the council, headed by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, and the rebellious Alliance of California Judges over how to deal with cutbacks in state court financing.

The ACJ has accused the Judicial Council and the Administrative Office of the Courts of wasting money on a bloated bureaucracy, an unworkable centralized computer system and a multibillion-dollar courthouse construction program while local courts have been forced into periodic shutdowns and employee furloughs.

The Alliance won one skirmish recently when the Judicial Council canceled the computer program.

The rebels also won Assembly passage of a bill, bitterly opposed by Cantil-Sakauye and her allies, that would give local courts more authority over allocation of funds.

And now the battle is shifting to the construction program, which critics say is too grandiose and is gobbling up money that should be diverted into support for court operations.

In 2008, the Legislature, at the behest of Cantil-Sakauye’s predecessor, Ron George, authorized up to $5 billion in bonds to finance courthouse construction, to be repaid through increases in fines, fees and assessments on court system users.

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