March 30, 2012 > CA court leaders pull plug on $2B computer system
CA court leaders pull plug on $2B computer system
By Paul Elias, Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO (AP), Mar 27 - California court leaders pulled the plug Tuesday on an ambitious computer project that was intended to electronically connect every courthouse in the state but cost taxpayers more than $500 million.
The California Judicial Council, which oversees the administration of state courts, voted unanimously to immediately halt funding the project that was nearly 10 years in the making. Members blamed the bleak economic climate in California.
The project was scrapped after only six of California's 58 counties received significant upgrades.
The project was the subject of a scathing government audit and vocal criticism from a growing number of trial court judges, who complained the initial cost estimates ballooned from $260 million in 2004 to $2 billion today.
The council voted to spend $8.6 million to install what can still be salvaged from the failed project.
``We need to spend that to know what our options are,'' said Santa Barbara Judge James Herman, a member of the council.
The Alliance of California Judges, which claims more than 200 members and was created because of the growing frustration over the system's costs, called for an investigation into the $560 million already spent on the project.
``Furthermore, those responsible for this debacle must be identified and appropriate action taken,'' said Sacramento Superior Court Maryanne Gilliard, an alliance leader.
As initially envisioned a decade ago, anyone in any county could access real-time information on just about any case anywhere in the state. Lawyers could file court papers electronically and state Department of Justice officials and other law enforcement agencies could determine with a few keystrokes whether suspects in custody in one county had other restraining orders, warrants or other outstanding court actions pending against them.
The project was supposed to be the crowning achievement of former California Chief Justice Ron George's quest to drag the nation's largest court system into the 21st century.
George retired in 2010, and the state's computer court system remains a virtual Tower of Babel. The 58 counties still use a combined 70 computer systems to help mete out and keep track of justice in California.
Another council member, Appeals Court Justice Douglas Miller said the project was scrapped ``not because of the critics but because of the economic structure.''
Herman says the council felt the economic climate could not support spending any more money to complete deployment.