Judge Rosenberg Fights to Preserve Judicial Slush Fund

rosenbergWhy is Yolo County Paying Judges 40K Per Year in Benefits?

A controversy that has been brewing for some time between the County and Yolo County Judges may be exploding as a deadline approaches as to whether the county, strapped for cash, will have to continue to pay judges, ostensibly under state and not county control over 40 thousand dollars per year in benefits that Supervisor Matt Rexroad has likened to a “slushfund.”

This morning, the Woodland Daily Democrat is reporting that it is a done deal and that the county will have to continue to pay the benefit for the next two years.  “By not acting before today, the Yolo County Board of Supervisors has committed taxpayers to providing $80,324 in additional benefits to Yolo Superior Court judges over the next two years.”

However that report may be premature.  The Vanguard has just received a letter from County Administrator Patrick Blacklock to William Vickrey which would preserve the county’s ability to terminate supplemental judicial benefits.

Mr. Blacklock in a letter dated June 30, 2010 writes, “On March 25, 2009 the county notified the court that it would terminate financing for county provided judicial benefits pursuant to pursuant to Government Code section 68220. Since that time the county has postponed terminating these benefits pending release of an Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) report on the subject. That report was published December 2009.”

“The preliminary 2010-11 county budget continues to fund these benefits through September 2010 to allow the Board an opportunity to review this report and future options,” Mr. Blacklock continued.  “In preparing for this Board presentation, however, the County noted the requirement to notice the AOC and affected judges pursuant to 68220(b). Tills notice acts as the 180 days written notice required by Government Code section 68220(b).”

The crucial portion is here, “This notice is being provided so that the Board of Supervisors will have the full range of statutory options available when the Board considers this issue. This item is currently planned for Board of Supervisors consideration on August 3. The final adopted County budget, likely to be considered sometime in September, can then be modified to reflect the Board of Supervisors direction. Again, this notice is provided simply to comply with the statutory requirements to ensure that the Board of Supervisors can consider all options when it considers this matter.”

On Tuesday, Supervisor Rexroad responded to a letter from William Vickrey, from the Office of the Courts in Sacramento.  “It just furthers my resolve to kill this benefit,” he said during the correspondence portion of the meeting.  “I can’t wait until it comes up again so that I have the opportunity to vote to kill it as soon as possible.”

The Judges became state employees in 1994 but Yolo County for the past 17 years has provided supplementary benefits to judges for retirement, life insurance and medical insurance.  According to an article in the Woodland Daily Democrat this morning, “The supplemental benefits contradict the state’s goal of providing a uniform salary scale throughout California in order to retain quality judges.”

Judge David Rosenberg, the presiding judge of Yolo County courts has asked the board to delay making any decisions until there is a completion of the study.  However, such a delay would mean that for the majority of judges on the bench, they would continue to receive this benefit for the next two years during a time when the county is laying off and furloughing employees as they attempt to close budget deficits running as high as $20 million.

On June 15, the Board of Supervisors were divided on the issue as Matt Rexroad and Duane Chamberlain voted to terminate the benefits, Helen Thomson and Jim Provenza voted against the motion while Mike McGowan voted to abstain.

William Vickrey in his letter to County Counsel Robyn Truitt Drivon and the Board of Supervisors wrote, “I write to inform you of the status of the Judicial Council of California’s reporting to the Legislature regarding judicial benefits in light of the Board of Supervisors’ earlier-expressed intent to defer any action on county-provided judicial benefits until a full report is provided to the Legislature, as authorized by the legislation that provided authority to counties to terminate such benefits.”

He continued, “the Legislature directed the Judicial Council to report to various legislative committees by December 31,2009, “analyzing the statewide benefits inconsistencies.” The Judicial Council on December 15,2009, submitted its report entitled Historical Analysis of Disparities in Judicial Benefits-Report to the Senate Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review. the Assembly Committee on Budget, and the Senate and Assembly Committees on Judiciary.”

“If appropriate,” Mr. Vickrey wrote, “the council will also make recommendations to the Legislature and Governor regarding options for reforming judicial benefits in order to move toward a more consistent approach that would better attract and retain a highly qualified and diverse judiciary.”

In a letter from September of 2009, Judge David Rosenberg indicated an agreement was reached with former CAO Sharon Jensen that, “the Board of Supervises (sic) will defer any further action, if any, until the Administrative Office of the Courts provides a full report to the Governor and Legislature regarding the issue of judicial benefits, as authorized by the legislation which provided authority to Boards of Supervisors to terminate benefits.”

Mr. Rexroad indicated that while $40,000 may be a drop in the bucket considering the operating budget of $271 million and the deficit, he said it could translate to health care for one of Yolo County’s indigent, or salary for one of the 48 people who lost their jobs earlier this month.

The Daily Democrat on the other hand reports, “Rosenberg said the Board of Supervisors should realize the courts are part of the county’s criminal justice team, which has helped to process cases quickly, effectively reducing the jail population and realizing savings by renting out beds to state prisoners and closing down a portion of the Leinberger Detention Facility.  “The result is saving the county hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said. “The $40,000 in benefits pales in significance to those kinds of effort and savings. It would be very shortsighted of the county to not maintain the status quo.””

According the Daily Democrat, Mr. Rexroad said that while he appreciates Rosenberg’s hard work, “We are not in the position as a county to be handing out bonuses.” He said the continuance of what he refers to as the judges’ “slush fund” will only be delayed because the Administrative Office of the Courts controls the study and it is in judges’ best interest to prolong its release to the Legislature.

From our standpoint, I do not see that Judge Rosenberg has a leg to stand on.  Just yesterday we received a press release from the county indicating that the Public Defender’s office would be closed to the public every Friday afternoon due to staff furloughs as a means to save money.  They have had to lay off numerous support staff according to the release.

The idea that Judge Rosenberg seems to imply a quid pro quo between his efforts to reduce the jail population through better court administration and continuation of the slush fund is anathema to the process.

The bottom line is that the state and not the county is responsible for paying for the Courts, it makes no sense that county should be flipping the bill for extra judicial benefits.  Matt Rexroad is exactly right on this issue. 

At a time when people in Yolo County are having their benefits cut to the bone, at a time when the county is cutting services to the poor, the elderly, and children, at a time when county employees are being laid off and furloughed, Judge Rosenberg is out there fighting to keep his perk.  And then he dares to imply that somehow he earned it by saving the county money by speeding up the processing of jail inmates through the court system.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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14 thoughts on “Judge Rosenberg Fights to Preserve Judicial Slush Fund”

  1. Neutral

    [quote]Gov. Code Section 68220 (b):

    The [benefit] termination shall not be effective as to any judge during his or her current termwhile that judge continues to serve as a judge in that court or, at the election of the county, when that judge leaves office.[/quote]

    So you’re saying that Max is saying that the AoC’s report is saying that depending on the results of the statewide survey and a series of future legislative hearings that this section *might* be amended to apply to current Judges?

  2. David M. Greenwald

    Apparently that is part of the debate, whether it would apply to current judges. Some believe it would not apply to any current judges. Others believe that “During his current term” means that when their term is up, for many of them that is in January, that the benefit would then be cut.

  3. roger bockrath

    Former Davis Mayor and now Presiding Judge of the Superior Court of California for Yolo County, Judge Dave Rosenberg is the man I wrote to a couple of years ago about irregularities it the courtrooms of three of his judges resulting in lack of due process for defendants in Traffic Court. My multi page letter, requesting an investigation, detailed the illegal tactics of judges in collusion with the District Attorney’s prosecutor. These tactics prejudiced my case so as to produce a guilty verdict without the necessary evidence required by law. My due process rights were completely ignored. The Superior Court received a hefty percentage of my fine.

    Judge Rosenberg’s two sentence reply indicated he was in receipt of my letter and would investigate. Since then no investigation has occurred and the Court continues to collect it’s cut of traffic fines, collected from defendants who receive no due process. Why fix the corruption when you get a cut of the ill gotten gains?

    When Dave was Davis’ Mayor he seemed to be the go to guy for problems in the community. Now Presiding Judge Dave Rosenberg seems to have morphed into just another power/money hungry politician. What a shame !

  4. David M. Greenwald

    A little note from the Enterprise article:

    [quote]In Yolo County, the 10 judges receive $175,000 in extra compensation, with $40,641 coming from county government.

    But it’s not just petty cash, said Dave Rosenberg, presiding judge of the Yolo Superior Court. Yolo judges have to spend it on health and life insurance or retirement. ‘You can’t just pocket it,’ he said.

    ‘ ‘Slush fund’ is an unfortunate use of language,’ Rosenberg added.

    Supervisor Jim Provenza of Davis called the term a ‘mischaracterization.’ If you’re going to call a judge’s benefit package a slush fund, he said, then you’d have to do the same for supervisors and department directors.

    But supervisors and directors are county employees, Rexroad said. Judges aren’t.

    ‘They’re not our employees,’ he said. ‘If they have a compensation problem, they need to deal with the state Legislature.’ [/quote]

  5. Ryan Kelly

    If the County stopped paying its portion, the 10 Judges will still receive $134,359 in extra compensation to use for health or life insurance and/or retirement? I don’t know…$17,500 each each year doesn’t seem like much with health insurance alone costing up to $12,000+ per year for family coverage. Is this the only way they receive health insurance?

  6. wdf1

    Here’s a link to today’s (Thursday’s) article in the Enterprise on the topic:

    [url]http://www.davisenterprise.com/archive_pdfs/2010/20100701/PDFS/a1.pdf[/url]

  7. roger bockrath

    wdf1,
    Do you have a link to the other page of the Emptyprize article. I don’t subscribe and would like to read the rest of the article. As far as I can tell your link goes only to page one. thanks! r.b.

  8. E Roberts Musser

    “The Daily Democrat on the other hand reports, “Rosenberg said the Board of Supervisors should realize the courts are part of the county’s criminal justice team, which has helped to process cases quickly, effectively reducing the jail population and realizing savings by renting out beds to state prisoners and closing down a portion of the Leinberger Detention Facility. “The result is saving the county hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said. “The $40,000 in benefits pales in significance to those kinds of effort and savings. It would be very shortsighted of the county to not maintain the status quo.””

    Whatever savings Rosenberg has achieved for the county is nothing more than Rosenberg doing the job he is required to do. That does not entitle him to bonus pay. There are many, many federal, state and local employees who do an excellent job, saving the county or the state money, but they don’t get bonuses for it. So this argument just doesn’t cut it…

  9. wdf1

    Do you have a link to the other page of the Emptyprize article. I don’t subscribe and would like to read the rest of the article. As far as I can tell your link goes only to page one. thanks! r.b.

    At the end of the URL, type in “a4” instead of “a1”; the article continues onto page A4 in the hard copy:

    [url]http://www.davisenterprise.com/archive_pdfs/2010/20100701/PDFS/a4.pdf[/url]

  10. wdf1

    And here’s the link to the Daily Democrat article that ERM references:

    [url]http://www.dailydemocrat.com/ci_15418384?source=most_viewed[/url]

  11. Mr Obvious

    Roger

    [quote]Judge Rosenberg’s two sentence reply indicated he was in receipt of my letter and would investigate. Since then no investigation has occurred and the Court continues to collect it’s cut of traffic fines, collected from defendants who receive no due process. Why fix the corruption when you get a cut of the ill gotten gains?[/quote]

    How do you know that no investigation has been conducted? In what way were your due process rights violated? How do you know the judges were in “collusion” with the DA?

  12. roger bockrath

    wdf1,
    Thank you for the links. The two questions I just put out on Friday’s blog were both answered by refering back to the Emptyprize article.

    M.O.
    It’s a long story. Davis runs it’s red light camera traps out of conformance with California statute. It has an illegal contract with the red light provider. Many red light citations all over California have been thrown out because evidence against a defendant which is collected illegally is not admissible. My attempts to prove the photographic evidence was collected illegally were repeatedly prejudiced by failure of three different judges in two hearings and two days of trial to rule on any motion I made. My experience is that Traffic Court judges get away with ignoring constitutionally guaranteed due process rights because nobody is looking. The courts get a sizable chunk of traffic fines so they have a conflict of interest when it comes to allowing a defendant their due process. I am sufficiently disgusted with the Yolo County branch of the Superior Court of California that I intend to refuse to participate next time I am called for jury duty. At that time I will present my documented list of incidents where my due process rights were ignored. At the time of my trial I had demanded that all hearings be sound recorded, with the intent of appealing. Then I learned that my Proposed Settled Statement, reviewing my grounds for appeal, gets edited (sanitized) by the same judge who prejudiced my case in the first place. I also learned that , contrary to information provided to me by an attorney, the appeal case does not go to another district but is instead heard by a panel of three judges in the Yolo Court. In other words, the same good ol boys who violated my due precess rights in the first pace get together to hear my appeal. What a Joke! Essentially, there is no right to appeal by third party.

    I know that no investigation was performed because Rosenfeld promised to notify me of the results in October 2008 and I have received nothing. I did, however catch a news article where Rosenfeld stated his intention to raise traffic fines to help pay for his new 278 million dollar court house.

    If you visit a trial in traffic court you will see the same old tactics. The Traffic Court in Yolo County has little to do with justice or due process. A trial is just a legally required formality in which they go through the motions but the defendant nearly always looses. They fail to provide your court ordered discovery. And then, when you make a motion for dismissal based on the D.A’s failure to produce court ordered discovery, it never gets ruled on. The Traffic Court in Yolo County is little more than a bill collector.

    I would highly recommend a visit to a Traffic Court trial for every citizen. My experience in the Yolo superior Court was very educational!

  13. E Roberts Musser

    rb: “Davis runs it’s red light camera traps out of conformance with California statute. It has an illegal contract with the red light provider. Many red light citations all over California have been thrown out because evidence against a defendant which is collected illegally is not admissible.”

    Please explain how Davis runs its red light camera trap out of conformance with CA statute. Did you run the red light or not? Are you saying that if you don’t run the red light, the camera catches you running the red light even when you didn’t?

  14. Themis

    “If you visit a trial in traffic court you will see the same old tactics. The Traffic Court in Yolo County has little to do with justice or due process. A trial is just a legally required formality in which they go through the motions but the defendant nearly always looses. They fail to provide your court ordered discovery.”

    Unfortunately this doesn’t just happen in traffic court.

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