I was editing a story last month where court administrative director Steve Jahr was quoted supporting the abandonment of his own agency's name.
     It was the director unbound. I did not know he was so quotable.
     His comments highlighted the absurdity that surrounds many policy decisions recommended by a coterie of officials from the Administrative Office of the Courts and pushed past judges on the Judicial Council.
     "Retiring the name AOC will produce a perceptual change, or perhaps a cultural change," he told the council. "Yet under the substantive law, it makes no change at all."
     It could be this, or it could be that, but really, it is nothing at all.
     I told the article's author, Maria Dinzeo, that we should quote the director more regularly. She said she had never heard him speak with such freedom.
     Indeed, something had changed.
     The director's ability to speak outside the jargon and double-talk of his bureaucracy was a flashing sign that he was already outside of it. A couple days later, his retirement was announced.
     While the Administrative Office of the Courts no longer exists, its officials, its offices, its policies remain. They are now referred to as the staff of the Judicial Council.
     At first impression, I considered the gambit just another move in the game of hide-and-seek the administrative officials have played in the past.
     Years ago, when I first began delving into the Cheshire Cat body of bureaucrats behind the disastrous software project called the Court Case Management System, I wanted to understand what made the system tick -- what allowed them to dominate the administration of trial courts that adopted CCMS, how they acquired the arrogance to try and take the power to hire the court clerk away from the presiding judge, how they succeeded in putting information systems in the hands of the clerks by rule, and why the result of such hubris was a trashing of press access.
     At the time, I asked officials who on paper worked for the Judicial Council what was the difference between working for the administrative office and working for the council. The response was that they all worked for the same person, then-director William Vickrey. He was the "boss."
     So I figured the council was under the boss, was the boss's puppet.
     That impression was confirmed two summers ago when the council decided to put a hold on the software project that had racked up nearly a half-billion dollars in expense. The very next council session, the staff came back and said there was no hold, and the project was going ahead.
     The obvious conclusion was that a vote by the council meant nothing, unless the staff agreed. Indeed, it meant the staff members could override the council, as they had just done.
     Coming back to the present, what difference would it make if the staff changed its name from the AOC to the staff of the Judicial Council. They would still run the show.
     So I was surprised at the reaction in the Legislature, which was clearly favorable. In addition, judges who have been strong critics of the administrative office agreed with the abandonment of the name and the idea of a separate administrative office.
     Maybe, just maybe, the name change was more than a sleight of hand, more than a mere matter of perception.
     In that case, what might the future hold?
     First, the council would be held responsible for hundreds of bureaucrats and the ideas they come up with. That accountability would in turn lead to scrutiny of the how the council works and how the committees, many of them now theoretically open to the press, decide on matters to push up to the council.
     That scrutiny in turn would lead to questions about how the council is selected and that in turn would lead to the real and only source of power in the whole set-up, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who picks the council members, leads council deliberations and ultimately directs the staff.
     That focus could well lead to a better understanding of how the council works and an assignment of responsibility for the results.
     

     Donald Sterling sued his wife Shelly Sterling and the Clippers and the National Basketball Association late Tuesday to block the $2 billion sale of the Clippers, claiming his wife and the NBA tricked him into undergoing brain scans to oust him from the team.

     In the space of less than two hours, two federal appeals court panels issued conflicting rulings on whether the government can lawfully subsidize premiums for consumers in 36 states that use the federal insurance exchange. 

     The second psychiatrist to examine accused mass murderer James Holmes defended his preference to videotape Holmes during a sanity examination in a court hearing on Tuesday.

     A state appeals court halted a $4 billion class action against Sutter Health over stolen patient records, holding that no one can prove the data has ever been used. 

     A Catholic parish fired a social-work director after a newspaper article revealed her sexual orientation, though the church knew she was gay when it hired her, she claims in court. 

     A friend of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been convicted of impeding the investigation into the 2013 rampage that killed four and injured hundreds, the Justice Department said Monday.


     A medical device maker fired its top compliance officer for reporting that the company paid kickbacks to Chinese government officials and that he'd found "questionable payments" to doctors, such as "$200 for how to pronounce a word," the former executive claims in a $10 million lawsuit. 

     U.S. Customs and Border Protection refuses to explain the analytical methods it uses to catch illegal aliens and contraband crossing the border, according to a government watchdog that claims the process could infringe on civil liberties. 

     Florida sued a ring of bulldog breeders to stop them from selling illegally imported puppies and misrepresenting their health and age to buyers. 


     The government is illegally forcing a Bay Area oyster farm to shut down, which will devastate the businesses that rely on its oysters, the Tomales Bay Oyster Co. and several other business claim in Federal Court. 

     Hasbro is making an Adam Sandler movie based on the board game "Candy Land" without permission from the company that created the game's characters and environments, the company claims in court. 

     The production company behind the musical comedy "Girltrash: All Night Long" claims that alternative rock band Killola falsely represented that the company had breached the band's copyright by releasing a soundtrack to the film.

     A North Carolina firm must defend itself against claims it lied to get into two Small Business Administration programs to snare lucrative government contracts, a federal judge ruled. 

     The former mayor of the L.A. suburb of Rosemead was sentenced Monday to 21 months in federal prison for attempting to tamper with a witness and making false statements to the FBI.

     Clearing the way for Arizona to execute a convicted killer, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday vacated an injunction entered by the 9th Circuit. 

     The Idaho attorney general on Friday urged the 9th Circuit to reverse a ruling that Idaho's ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy is unconstitutional, arguing that a woman and physician do not have standing to pursue their claims.

     A search-and-rescue non-profit group may continue using drones in its missions because an FAA informal warning email against the practice is not legally binding, the D.C. Circuit ruled. 

     Insurers for the now-defunct top manufacturer of asbestos must pay more than $500 million to resolve settlement agreements in longstanding tort litigation, the 2nd Circuit ruled on Tuesday. 

     A university writer who was compared to the Virginia Tech shooter by his boss can only keep half of a $1.2 million jury award, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled. 

     Federal law gives the Coast Guard power to decide what conditions must be met for foreign vessels suspected of environmental law violations to be released from U.S. ports, a federal judge ruled. 

     A man convicted in Arizona for kidnapping a young Honduran and holding him for ransom did not have his rights violated at trial by the admission of details from a phone call he placed to the victim's mother, the 9th Circuit ruled. 

     A Volvo subsidiary must pay $72 million for failing to comply with a consent decree in which Volvo agreed its engines must meet next year's EPA standards to be sold in the U.S., the D.C. Circuit ruled. 

     A former top executive at Qualcomm pleaded guilty Monday to federal charges of inside trading and money laundering.


     An Orange County man faces up to 40 years in federal prison after pleading guilty Monday to defrauding doctors and dentists of $2.3 million for bogus "emergency medical technologies."

     Bally Gaming claims Carey Richardson dba The iApp Shop violates two electronic poker patents, in Federal Court. 

     Sprouts Farmers Market violates trade dress and competes unfairly with King's Hawaiian Bakery's "Kings Hawaiian Hawaiian Sweet Rolls," the company claims in Federal Court. 

     The Kia Sedona (2008-11), Optima (2008-10) and Sportage (2011) have dangerously defective brake switches, a class action claims in Federal Court. 

     The Pentagon does not have to return the money it seized from a Guantanamo detainee that it released to Algeria, a federal judge ruled. 

     All the critical material in an 81-page 2011 FISC opinion on NSA surveillance has been declassified and made public, a federal judge ruled, rejecting the Electronic Frontier Foundation's request for an unredacted copy. 

     Gov. Jerry Brown has named a Stanford University Law professor as his choice to replace retiring Associate Justice Marvin Baxter on the California Supreme Court.

     A federal judge has approved a second labor settlement with Weight Watchers, resolving overtime claims that accrued while policies challenged in an earlier class action remained in place. 

     Massage Envy Franchising can pay $504,000 to settle a class action alleging that it forced therapists to pay for liability insurance, a federal judge ruled. 


     Duran Duran sued Worldwide Fan Clubs in Cook County Court, claiming the fan club manager/sales agent owes it an accounting and money. 


     Gloria Fickling, creator of the Honey West female detective character, claims Moonstone Entertainment is churning out Honey West products, in violation of copyright and trademark, defrauding her of profits, in Federal Court. 


     Lions Gate Entertainment and four of its top executives hurt shareholders by making false and misleading statements about how they fought off a hostile takeover by Carl Icahn, a shareholder claims in a federal class action.

     Toyotas with 2AZ-FE engines, in some model years from 2006 to 2011, burn excessive oil, which can lead to sudden engine failure, a class action claims in Federal Court. 

     Panasonic, Sanyo, Hitachi et al. fixed prices on "aluminum and tantalum electrolytic capacitors" for circuit boards for nearly a decade, Chip-Tech claims in Federal Court; click headline for defendants. 

     A visitor to the Ventura County Fairgrounds claims his ankle was crushed by a pig stampede, in Ventura County Court.