Stepping down

Feb 10, 2012

The interim head of the state court system, 59-year-old Ronald Overholt, has stepped down following intense scrutiny over his spending practices, which an investigation showed included lavish dinners and hotels even as the court system was suffering severe fiscal pain. It's the latest problem for the court administration, which also faces a mutiny of dissident judges across the state who want more autonomy.


From Josh Richman in the Contra Costa Times: "San Diego's Channel 10 news, an ABC affiliate, reported in November that Overholt and his predecessor, longtime AOC Director William Vickrey, since 2009 had "been spending tax dollars on steaks, martinis and hotel stays" with trips to Vail, Colo.; Charlotte; Boston; Santa Fe, N.M.; Denver; Indian Wells; and Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, courts across the state have had to cut workforces and service hours in order to stay afloat amid deep budget cuts."


"This sparked some lawmakers' ire. "Spending hundreds of dollars on steak and lobster and alcoholic beverages is just wrong and it's out of touch and it's got to stop," Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego, told Channel 10."


Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who accepted Overholt's resignation, is outraged at the Assembly's passage of legislation that would limit the power of the Judicial Council, which as chief justice she heads. She has questioned the Assembly's action in such vigorous language that the lawmaker who pushed the bill said her actions were "inappropriate."

From the Bee's Dan Smith: "Pérez's office did not respond to requests for comment. But Democratic Assemblyman Charles Calderon of Whittier, the author of the bill, said Cantil-Sakauye's complaints were unusual and "not appropriate" for a chief justice."


"You hear these kinds of comments from a rookie freshman (in the Legislature) who doesn't understand the process," Calderon said. "I can't believe that she's that uninformed about how the Legislature works, or if she's trying to raise antagonism against the Legislature."


Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who sits on the UC Board of Regents, is taking aim at Gov. Brown's proposed budget cuts for higher education, calling them unfair and shortsighted. Lieutenant governors rarely get significant attention, but Newsom clearly is staking out political territory to the left of Brown and is catching media coverage.


From Chris Megerian in the LAT: "In particular, Newsom criticized the proposal to raise the minimum grade-point average needed to receive a Cal Grant. Brown’s administration says an estimated 26,600 students wouldn’t make the cut, saving $131 million and focusing “limited financial aid resources on those students who are most likely to complete their degrees.”


"Newsom said that will only further handicap disadvantaged students."


“If we keep cutting higher education funding and increasing the cost of getting a degree, that student is guaranteed not to complete a degree because we have priced them out of public education and told them they are not worth our support,” he wrote."


Pete Schabarum, "the father of term limits," isn't all that happy at the way things turned out after voters approved the 1990 ballot measure that he spearheaded. With another tem-limits measure on the June ballot -- this one to allow lawmakers to serve up to 12 years in one house -- the LAT's Jean Merl caught up with Schabarum for a chat.


"Reached at his home in the desert community of Indian Wells, Schabarum said he had hoped his measure would encourage a new breed of “citizen legislator” who would serve the state for a short period of time and then return to private life, giving others opportunities to bring fresh ideas and new perspectives to government. Instead, many elected officials who want careers in politics engage in a near-constant rotation among posts."


“The guys and gals who are seeking office are always looking beyond where they land for the next jump,” Schabarum said. “They spend most of their time in office looking for their next job.”


California Democrats will converge on San Diego this weekend for the state party convention, and there's a lot to talk about in the new landscape of rewritten political districts, top-two primary and intra-party fights.


From the U-T's Christopher Cadelago: "The priorities of the more than 3,000 party activists, delegates, volunteers and elected officials expected here are many: Re-electing President Barack Obama and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, pushing to regain control of the House of Representatives, electing a supermajority in the state Legislature and passing tax increases in the fall."


"They also will be keenly focused on a lesser-known ballot measure that would limit the ability of unions to raise political funds from their members."


A taste of what's in store in San Diego can be seen in a fight involving three Inland Empire Democrats to lock up support for their congressional or legislative runs.


From Jim Miller in the Press Enterprise: "Several Inland candidates seek the party's official backing, or want to prevent their rival from getting it, in the 35th Congressional District, Rep. Joe Baca vs. state Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod; the 47th Assembly District, Cheryl Brown vs. Joe Baca Jr.; and the 31st Senate District, Steve Clute vs. Richard Roth."


"The endorsements carry added significance this year because of the state's new political lines and the June debut of California's top-two primary. Candidates endorsed by the party will be noted as such in voters' sample ballots, potentially giving them an edge with committed Democratic voters."










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