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SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Carmen Gonzalez, Kevin Jackson, Peter Silva

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California Courts Share Basic Records of How They're Run; Agency That Oversees Them, Not So Much

CARMICHAEL, Calif., March 26, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- California courts are generally prompt and forthcoming in sharing with the public basic information about how they are administered, including specifics about the pay, benefits, and outside financial interests of judges and key executives. But they could do a better job of informing the public of its right of access to such information. And the Administrative Office of the Courts has been singularly unrevealing.

This conclusion reflects results of an audit of the trial and appellate court systems throughout the state conducted by Californians Aware throughout 2013, checking how readily and completely they responded to information requests as required under a judicial branch disclosure mandate—Rule of Court 10.500—that went into effect four years ago.

Access to the records of most state and local agencies is governed by the California Public Records Act (CPRA), but that law does not apply to the judicial branch. Instead, the state court system for the first time opened its administrative books to public review with Rule 10.500, whose provisions in most respects parallel those of the CPRA.

To test how well the state's 58 county-based superior (trial) courts comply with the new rule, CalAware used email addressed to each court's executive officer to make requests for 10 different areas of information, including:

  • agendas and minutes of court executive committee meetings;
  • supplemental benefits paid to judges by some counties;
  • statements of court officials' outside earnings and investments;
  • professional histories of court executive officers; and
  • local procedures for public to use in accessing such information.

Almost all courts provided access to most of the requested information, but at widely varying rates: some the same day, 40 percent within 10 days, and one almost a year later.  And few made much effort to educate the public on access to the administrative files.

As for 10 comparable requests to the Administrative Office of the Courts in San Francisco, only four drew responses.

The complete report, including county-by-county results, is at http://tinyurl.com/knlvae5.

For further information contact Terry Francke, [email protected], (916) 487-7000

SOURCE Californians Aware

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