Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

March 11, 2013
California chief justice says state is 'on the wrong side of history'


California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye implored the Legislature on Monday to better fund the court system, tying the issue to a basic guarantee of justice.

In her second State of the Judiciary speech, Cantil-Sakauye spoke repeatedly of the landmark Gideon v. Wainwright case, in which the United States Supreme Court established the right to counsel for defendants who couldn't afford a lawyer. Ongoing cuts imperil the Gideon precedent that all Americans get a fair chance in court, Cantil-Sakauye said.

"To have your day in court, you need a court room," Cantil-Sakauye said. "And I must say that what we once counted on, that courts would be open and ready and available to deliver prompt justice, is no longer true in California."

As yawning budget deficits became commonplace over the last few years, the court system was repeatedly asked to absorb deep cuts. Cantil-Sakauye has spoken often about the consequences for an overburdened justice system, a central theme of her State of the Judiciary speech last year.

Cantil-Sakauye's speech on Tuesday contained similar warnings. She invoked a list of slated courthouse closures and pointed to reduced staffing, buildings fallen into disrepair, heightened court fees and longer delays for cases. The Judicial Council, which sets policy for the court system, has voted to delay more than a dozen construction projects in recent months.

But the ground has shifted since 2012. Now that the voters have ratified Proposition 30, a ballot initiative that increases the California sale tax and raises income taxes for the state's wealthiest residents, an expected surge of new revenue appears to put California on firmer fiscal footing.

Given that sunnier budget outlook, Cantil-Sakauye has urged Gov. Jerry Brown to restore some funding to the judicial system. Brown's 2013-2014 budget proposes a $200 million reduction and asks the courts to offset it by dipping into judicial reserves.

"I worry that California is on the wrong side of history in funding justice, and I believe that if we do not reinvest in justice, you will see or will continue to see services to the public from the courts are cut or eliminated or deeply restricted," she said.

Some judges have assailed the court system's centralized authority, the Administrative Office of the Courts, for acting with a heavy hand and spending inefficiently. A May 2012 report commissioned by Cantil-Sakauye echoed those calls for reform, saying the AOC has "become dysfunctional in many ways" and strayed from its primary role of administering California's trial courts.

Cantil-Sakauye pointed to some of the progress the AOC has made, citing a costly computer system project officials decided to scrap, a series of open meetings and a review of trial court funding. But she said that tightening up practices can only go so far.

"No amount of efficiencies that we implement will ever make up for a billion dollar cut," she said, referring to the cumulative cuts of the last few years.

PHOTO CREDIT: California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013 in Sacramento, Calif. Lezlie Sterling for the Sacramento Bee.

March 11, 2013
Grieving parents criticize doctors who over-prescribe addictive drugs

By Cynthia Craft

Dozens of bereaved parents who lost children to opiate overdoses told state legislators Monday that the California Medical Board is failing to protect the public from "dirty doctors" who over-prescribe addictive drugs, especially to young adults.

The reports of a growing epidemic in California mirror nationwide statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which revealed new data recently showing the number of deaths due to pain medicine overdoses have increased for the 11th year in a row.

Testimony from California parents, each displaying a framed photograph of their lost loved one, came during a routine review of the California Medical Board in a Joint Oversight Hearing of the state Legislature. Every 10 years, the Legislature's business and professions committees in the Senate and Assembly must review the performance of the board and approve its continued existence.

March 11, 2013
Longtime Democratic political aide appointed to FPPC

Tricia Wynne Photo.jpgA longtime aide to Democratic politicians has been added to the state panel tasked with enforcing California's campaign and political conflict-of-interest laws.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced today that she is appointing Patricia Wynne to the Fair Political Practices Commission. Wynne, who currently serves as deputy state treasurer at the California State Treasurer's Office, has also worked for the attorney general's office and the state Senate in her 30-year career in state government.

"It's hard to overstate the importance of having an aggressive, proactive, independent political watchdog, which is why I am so pleased Tricia has accepted this appointment to the FPPC," Bowen said in a statement. "Tricia has a keen understanding of the fair and practical application of complex laws and regulations, and her devotion to integrity, transparency and independence will serve all Californians well."

Wynne, who will start her new job in April, replaces Elizabeth Garret, a University of Southern California provost who was previously appointed by Bowen to a four-year term. She is one of three new members filling vacancies on the commission this spring. All the posts were open because of term limits.


Oakland attorney Eric Casher named to state watchdog panel

Attorney Gavin Wasserman named to political watchdog panel

PHOTO: FPPC Commissioner Patricia Wynne. California Department of Justice.

March 11, 2013
State revenue keeps pace in February, controller reports

chiang.jpgState tax revenue kept pace with budget estimates last month, with strong sales and corporate tax receipts offsetting a shortfall in personal income taxes, according to a report today by the State Controller's Office.

Total revenue of $5.3 billion in February was more than 20 percent higher than the same month last year, according to the report.

"Healthy revenues, along with recovering home prices, a steep drop in foreclosures, and increased car sales are harbingers of a California economy that is starting to warm up," Controller John Chiang said in a prepared statement.

Though sales, income and corporate tax revenues were all up over last year, income tax revenue was nowhere near as robust as expected. The controller's office attributed the category's weak showing - nearly 19 percent less than anticipated - to a large number of tax refunds being issued in February.

March 11, 2013
Want a California House seat? Price tag is more than $1 million

BB RNC DAY 1 0919.JPGWhat's the price of a California congressional seat? Well over $1 million, if campaign contributions are any indication.

California's 53-member congressional delegation raised a combined $85 million for their successful 2012 races, with the average member accepting $1,611,767.30 in contributions, according to data collected by

That figure, which doesn't count the millions poured into the state's races by outside groups, is slightly lower than the national average of $1.68 million raised by winning House candidates cited in MapLight's report. In both cases, members were taking in more than $2,000 a day on average.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, took in the most cash of all California members, reporting more than $4.5 million in contributions. While McCarthy didn't face a serious challenge last year, his leadership position as House majority whip makes him a magnet for campaign money.

March 11, 2013
Oakland attorney Eric Casher named to state watchdog panel

Eric Casher 5x7.jpgCalifornia Attorney General Kamala Harris has named Oakland attorney Eric Casher to a vacant spot on the state's Fair Political Practices Commission.

Casher is an associate in the Oakland office of Meyer Nave, where he has represented "public and private developers, design professionals, general contractors, subcontractors, as well as, government agencies and municipalities," according to his online biography. He was named one of the National Bar Association's 40 best advocates under 40 in 2011.

"Eric's commitment to justice, fairness and the rule of law will make him a strong asset on the Fair Political Practices Commission," Harris said in a statement. "The people of California will be well-served by his diligence and his judgment."

March 11, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Debra Bowen's office stuck in 19th century

Dan says a business bureaucracy snafu shows Secretary of State Debra Bowen has fallen short in her campaign promise to incorporate technology into her office.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

March 11, 2013
AM Alert: California's Chief Justice addresses the Legislature


VIDEO: Secretary of State Debra Bowen has not delivered on her promise of using technology to streamline business operations, Dan Walters says.

We've already had Gov. Jerry Brown's State of the State address and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson's State of the City speech; today the judiciary branch gets its shot at recapitulation. California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye is delivering her State of the Judiciary address to a joint session of the Legislature in the Assembly chambers today, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. You can also watch on CalChannel (livestream here).

While Brown's budget has generally drawn praise for restoring some fiscal balance and potentially averting a bruising legislative battle, Cantil-Sakauye has emerged as one of the more vociferous critics. She has said Brown must go further in restoring funding the court system has lost through years of budget cuts. It will be interesting to see how much of the chief justice's speech is devoted to budgetary casualties like slimmer judiciary staffing, longer waits and shuttered courthouses.


Capitol Alert Staff

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers California politics and edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. Twitter: @capitolalert

Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee.

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. Twitter: @ccadelago

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert.

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. Twitter: @davidsiders

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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