Child Support Rulings Could Be In Jeopardy Due To Oath Issue SAN RAFAEL, CA---Sunshine Week is being observed throughout the nation this week, opening the doors to government and the publics right to know how governmental business is being conducted and how public officers are performing. The sun needs to shine in Marin County, California. In fact, it needs to come out from under that cloud that seems to exist at the Marin County Superior Court and shine directly on William S. Hochman. Whos William S. Hochman? According to the Marin County Bar Association and the title he uses, hes a commissioner with the Marin County Superior Court, rendering decisions in the Department of Child Support Services and in essence, involved in administering a $90.2 million contract between the Department of Child Support Services and the Judicial Council of California. PDF FILE How much Marin County receives in federal and state reimbursements appears to be directly tied to how Hochman rules and may constitute a significant conflict of interest in that the higher he sets child support awards, the more money the county receives which indicates that may not be concerned about the facts of the specific case but rather how much revenue he can generate for the county. According to Curtis Child, former head of the California Department of Child Support Services, the commissioner system and all associated costs are charged back to the federal government as administrative costs for which the state gets a 66% reimbursement. If the child support courts used judges, they wouldnt be able to charge the costs back, according to informed sources. So virtually every taxpayer in America is paying for Commissioner Hochman. But according to the website for the Marin County Superior Court, hes not a commissioner. There are four commissioners listed for Marin County----and William S. Hochman isnt one of them. http://www.co.marin.ca.us/depts/MC/main/commissioners . Is he a state officer, a county officer or is he legally in office at all? Is he appointed or elected or is he an employee or an independent contractor? No one in Marin County will say but yet the county bar calls him a commissioner and in a February, 2005 Bar newsletter, lists his address as the Marin County Superior Court in San Rafael. The scope of work defined in the contract between DCSS and the court is the coordination of respective efforts and obtaining state and federal reimbursements for the Judicial Council and the local courts for the ongoing operation of the statewide Title IV-D Child Support Commissioner System and the Family Law Facilitators offices in the local courts. The program which Hochman presumably oversees reportedly nets Marin County about $654,000 a year for his services although his salary is allegedly in the neighborhood of $150,000 with retirement contributions reportedly about $90,000. Thus far, The North Country Gazette has been unable to obtain a job description of Hochmans designated duties. When a California resident attempted to utilize a subpoena to obtain the public information concerning the administration of the state and federal monies and information concerning Hochmans appointment and compensation, Hochman himself quashed it. Is Hochman a public officer or is he impersonating an officer without jurisdiction and essentially, illegally performing the duties of Marin Countys child support officer, setting the amount of child support in all family law matters in the county? Hochman also utilizes the power of the office to find people in contempt and jail them if they cant or wont pay his child support decrees. One public defender has stated that it doesnt matter if you have five cents and bought a stick of gum instead of paying five cents towards your child support, in Hochmans eyes, youre guilty. According to the statutes and Constitution of the State of California, it appears that Hochman is performing the duties of the office without legal authority, going so far as to imprison individuals without allegedly having the legal authority to do so. So far, officials in Marin County have been reluctant to comply with the states laws concerning public records about Hochman. As a result of his alleged non-compliance of the law in regard to filing his oath and bond, any and all decisions that he has made in regard to setting child support could be legally challenged and perhaps vacated. Neither Marin County nor state officials can or will produce either an oath of office or a bond for Hochman, both required. Without an oath and bond being subscribed to and filed in the county clerks office, Hochman cant legally perform judicial duties and cant legally be paid by county tax dollars. According to the court website, commissioners are judicial officers appointed by the court to conduct certain types of trials, sign orders, manage jury selection and perform other functions authorized by law. Commissioners may act as judges pro tem, according to the website, meaning they can hear both criminal and civil cases and render decisions much like a judge does. However, any commissioners decision must be reviewed by a judge before it becomes final unless the parties agree to be bound by the commissioners decision. Commissioners are trained as lawyers and frequently specialize in areas such as juvenile, family law or traffic. And a commissioner must be appointed by some official body. In California, elected and appointed officials are required to both take orally and subscribe to in writing the oath of office as required by the California Constitution and the California state statutes or code. If the oath is not orally taken and subscribed to in the proper form as dictated by the California Constitution, an official is prohibited from taking office. William Hochman has not been elected to the position he claims to hold and so far, the Marin County Board of Supervisors and county clerks office cant produce any certificate of appointment for Hochman. Not only does Hochman dictate child support matters, but he often times presides in traffic court. So how does he have the title that he does and on what authority is Marin County compensating him with tax dollars? The board of supervisors refused to respond to a public records request relating to the oath and bond of Hochman, who they referred to as a pro tem commissioner, instead referring it to the Superior Court. Scott M. Beseda, human resources manager of the court, refused to respond to the request and did not produce a copy of the requisite oath required to be filed by Hochman, saying that in California, the judicial branch of government, including the Superior Courts, its employees and contractors, are not subject to the Public Records Act. But the Marin County Board of Supervisors is subject to the Public Records Act and while court records may not be subject to open review by the public, the oaths of its judicial officers are definitely public information. Are both the court and the board of supervisors saying that Hochman are part of the judicial branch? If so, how did he get the position and even if he has been appointed, he is still required to have filed an oath and bond. In California, as in most states, the oath must be taken, subscribed to and filed before an official can legally take office and perform any duties of that office. According to Article 4 of the California Government Code, unless otherwise provided, before any officer enters on the duties of his office, he must take and subscribe the oath or affirmation set forth in Section 3 of Article XX of the California Constitution. Every oath of officer certified by the officer before whom it was taken must be filed within a specified time frame. The oath of all officers whose authority is not limited to any particular county must file their office in the Secretary of State. The oath of all officers elected or appointed for any county and local officers must file in the county clerks office of their respective counties. Thus, with Hochman claiming to be a Marin County commissioner, he is required by law to have filed his oath and bond in the Marin County clerks office. The Marin County clerks office and county clerk Michael Smith, has refused to respond to a public information request submitted by The North Country Gazette and has violated the states Public Records Law, refusing to provide information that the public has a right to know. In the case of Hochman, the county clerk refuses to provide information that will establish whether or not Hochman----who is acting as a judicial officer---has in fact complied with the laws himself. On Jan. 2, a request was made by the newspaper for a copy of the oath of office and bond for Hochman acting as a commissioner with the county Department of Child Support Services, and for a copy of the oaths and bonds for Superior Court judges Verna Adams, Terrance Boren, Fay DOpal, Michael Dufficy, Lynn Duryee, Stephen Graham, James Ritchie, Kelly Simmons, Vernon F. Smith and John A. Sutro Jr. Smith failed to respond to the request. In an unsigned letter received from the office of Bruce McPherson, secretary of state, it was indicated that Adams, DOpal, Ritchie, Smith and Sutro had filed oaths with the state office although it is unknown if they have been timely filed. The office clearly indicated that no oath has been filed by Judge Kelly V. Simmons. By law, Judge Simmons has vacated her judicial office claimed by failing to file an oath with either the county or state. The Secretary of State also indicated that there was no oath on file in Sacramento either for William S. Hochman, indicating that while hes doling out child support orders totaling thousands of dollars of individuals, rendering lives in total upheaval, it appears that he is doing so in total absence of jurisdiction and without legal authority. In fact, it appears that Hochman is doing so in violation of state law and the Constitution. Article 4 of state statutes requires that each judge of a superior court, such as Simmons, the county clerk, the executive officer or court administrator of the superior court and the recorder shall file a copy of his or her official oath, signed with his or her own proper signature, in the office of the Secretary of State as soon as he or she has taken and subscribed his or her oath. Simmons didnt do so and by law, failing to do so, she is not an incumbent in the office, therefore not in the technical term, a de jure officer. Without being a de jure officer, she is not a de facto officer and therefore all rulings made by Simmons while impersonating a judge could be subject to jurisdictional challenges and vacated. In fact, the courts have held that if public officers undertake duties of the office before they have legally taken and filed their oath and bond, that they have committed a misdemeanor. Simmons is currently assigned to the Criminal Division. The courts have held that the constitutional provision does not impose a criminal penalty in such a case but it makes no distinction in the necessity of the oath as between public officers and employees. The execution of the oath is essential to the status of de jure employment and without holding legal title to the office, compensation for services rendered cannot be paid. Even judges and judicial officers, including alleged commissioner Hochman, have to comply with the Constitution and state laws. Every oath must include the expiration date of the officers term of office. In the case of an oath for an appointed officer, if there is no expiration date set forth in the oath or the officer leaves office before the expiration date, the appointing authority shall report in writing to the Secretary of State the officers date of departure from office. So, if Hochman wasnt elected and so far, no one can or will produce a copy of his appointment, he has no authority to be serving in any position with the Department of Child Support Services. California Statutes specifically provides that no compensation or reimbursement for expenses incurred can be paid to any officer by any public agency unless he has taken and subscribed to the oath or affirmation. The official bonds of officers of county and judicial districts are required to be approved by the presiding judge of the superior court and recorded in the office of the county recorder and then filed in the county clerks office. But Smith, the county clerk, has refused to respond to the public records request for copies of either the oath or bond for the judges in question or for William Hochman in particular which would seem to lend even further proof that Hochman is acting totally without jurisdiction and cannot legally be collecting compensation from the taxpayers of Marin County. In that Hochman is not elected and is presumably appointed, although so far no department of government has admitted when he was appointed and how, California Government Code provides that if not otherwise provided for in the law, within 10 days after receiving notice of his appointment, Hochman was required to have taken and filed an oath in the manner required. So far no agency can or will produce a copy of the oath and bond that Hochman was required to file. The California Supreme Court has held that in the case of an elected officer, once the officer, including judges, received his certificate of election, he is required to take the oath and give bonds within the time required by law and if he fails to do so within the time required, the office is vacant. Until an officer-elect takes the oath of office and gives bonds according to law, he is not authorized to discharge the duties of the office. He is not an incumbent. And he cant legally impose child support orders. Even judicial officers have to comply with the law and in this case, it appears that Hochman isnt legally an officer and has no authority to perform the duties of one. Perhaps the largest question is, what about the federal and state reimbursements that have been made to Marin County as a result of Hochmans actions, apparently in the absence of jurisdiction?