Reprinted below is an article written by Maria Dinzeo of the Courthouse News concerning the fallout from former AOC Executive Curtis Child's troubling use of our work email addresses for the benefit of his new private sector employer. The use of these email addresses for commercial purposes is problematic on a number of levels, not the least of which is the appearance of favoritism towards one company to the detriment of any competitors.
While the Administrative Director of the AOC has promised an investigation, we have yet to be apprised of any developments or findings. We will let you know if and when we receive a response.
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Directors, Alliance of California Judges
Courthouse News Service
By MARIA DINZEO
Former Court Lobbyist Creates New Controversy in New Job
(CN) - The controversial former chief lobbyist for the California courts has resurfaced in a new role as pitchman, sending out a mass email to every judge in California promoting a "remote appearance platform" that allows long-distance court testimony.
As one of the top officials in California's court bureaucracy, Curt Child was a principal promoter of the software platform called the Court Case Management System. The project was widely derided as a mismanaged fiasco before it was finally abandoned, after plowing through a half-billion dollars in public funds, most of it sent to a private contractor.
Child was also connected to a series of additional policies and incidents that often brought intense criticism from the Legislature and trial judges.
When Child left in March, the director of the court administrative office, Martin Hoshino, issued a press release saying he was leaving for an undisclosed "national firm that will continue to enable to him work with judges."
Those words were given substance by a mass email sent last month from Child to all the judges in California, pitching a technology platform that allows for video appearances in court hearings.
"This a new and exciting opportunity for me to work with a company that is committed to improving access to justice and improving efficiencies for the courts," said Child in his email, appropriating themes used to promote the old CCMS software.
Child's new employer is called CourtCall, which has been in the business of long-distance court appearances for 20 years.
It his message to all the judges, Child added, "I will be in touch."
Child did not respond to a request for comment. His email brought substantial comment, however, from the judges in the state, who questioned whether the powerful former administrator was cashing in on his old job.
Judge Runston Maino of San Diego fired off his own email to members of California's Judicial Council, the rule-making body led by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye who appoints a majority of the council members.
"I have to wonder about how appropriate it was for Mr. Child to send this sort of an announcement out to every judge and justice in California? It is very difficult for me to believe that any of you would approve of such a thing,"
Maino wrote. "In any case I do hope that since Mr. Child has access to the email address of every judge and justice in California that he will not be giving or selling this information to anyone else. Despite our filters I get enough goofy materials on my public email address already. I certainly do not wish Mr. Child to add to the pile."
Speaking for the California Judges Association, Judge Joan Weber said the email from Child was not a matter for its board to consider.
"CJA has a hard-working ethics committee that deals with ethical issues related solely to judicial officers," said Weber, the CJA's president. "This issue, however, does not involves a judicial officer. It involves a former member of the Judicial Council staff. Therefore, the CJA would generally not be rendering an opinion on this type of issue."
For the Alliance of California Judges, Judge Maryanne Gilliard pressed the matter with the director of the court administrative office.
"It appears, at this point, Mr. Child is cashing in on his time at the top of the central bureaucracy to the detriment of other companies that may wish to compete for these services," wrote Gilliard, in an email to Hoshino.
Hoshino answered that nobody on his staff would approve release of the email addresses for the judges in California.
"I don't know how Curt Child acquired the email addresses for you and your colleagues and to my knowledge, no person at the Judicial Council or its staff would approve of the release of this information to him or any party for that matter," he said in his answer.
Gilliard replied, "Do you plan on making any inquiries or conducting any investigations in to how a former high ranking executive would or could have acquired these email addresses? I understand that you yourself may not know how Mr. Child would have acquired this valuable marketing information, but it's concerning that 'to your knowledge' no AOC staff or JC member would have approved of this release without undertaking an investigation, especially since CourtCall is apparently the main company used in California courts for the stated purpose in Mr. Child's e-blast."
Hoshino assured Gilliard that he has been investigating the matter.
"We have been working to determine how this happened," he wrote. "Until the inquiry is complete, I can't say with absolute certainty whether our employees or members approved the release. I've also asked for examination of all the policies or procedures that protect our confidential information to determine if there are violations or changes that need to be made, as well as any policies that govern the conduct of former employees in this area. We will also be talking directly with the CourtCall company."
Hoshino also told Gilliard that the Judicial Council does have contracts with CourtCall, but that he wasn't sure of the details. Trial courts in Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Merced County and San Mateo County also use CourtCall, just to name a few.
A set of statutes and regulations called "revolving door" laws try to put a short freeze on contacts by former government officials who go to work for private companies and their former governmental colleagues. The rules often require a cooling off period of one or two years between the time an official leaves governmental employ and then makes contact with his old co-workers on behalf of a private contractor.
California's court rules include a related prohibition.
Rule of Court 10.104 limits the ability of courts to negotiate contracts with former employees of the administrative office or the trial courts.
"A trial or appellate court may not enter into a contract for goods or services for which compensation is paid with a person previously employed by that court or by the Administrative Office of the Courts: (1) For a period of 12 months following the date of the former employee's retirement, dismissal, or separation from service, if he or she was employed in a policymaking position in the same general subject area as the proposed contract within the 12-month period before his or her retirement, dismissal, or separation."
But the comments surrounding the email blast from Child do not center on that revolving door provision. Their focus has been on the use of the email list of all the judges in the state to promote a technology product for the California courts.
Retired judge and judicial ethics expert Julie Conger said she could not comment on Child's use of the email list, but she did not see any problem with judges continuing to use the services of his new employer.
"I cannot comment on the propriety of his use of AOC email contacts," Conger said. "I don't see any ethical issues here on the part of judges using CourtCall even after the questions raised concerning his solicitation."
In an interview, legal ethicist Larry Doyle said he could not see an ethical problem with Child's use of the email list. "The market may work it out," he said. "Something that's a strategy can upset people as much as it can get you business."
Courthouse News Service