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courthouse.JPGThe Joint Legislative Audit Committee will consider whether to investigate the finances of California's judicial branch when it meets today at 1:30 p.m. in Room 126 of the Capitol. [Update: The hearing has been rescheduled for March 12.]

The request from Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, to look into spending and staffing of the courts' central administrative office would be the fourth audit of the judiciary in three years. Others have focused on a cancelled case management system, the branch's procurement practices and its information systems.

The audit has been pushed for largely by the Alliance of California Judges, a group of trial court judges that argues the budget of the Administrative Office of the Courts has swelled in recent years at the expense of courtroom operations, which experienced massive budget cuts during the recession.

"What we need to determine now is whether the priorities" of administrative projects "are higher than the priority of keeping courts open," Steve White, a Sacramento Superior Court judge and a director of the alliance, told Capitol Alert last month. "For judges to have confidence and trust in the AOC, there needs to be much more transparency."

In a statement, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said the Administrative Office of the Courts has already "provided to legislative staff eight binders totaling 4500 pages of audits and reports" over the last year, adding that the office has experienced its own cuts and the perceived budget increase comes from programs benefiting local courts that have been folded into its duties.

VIDEO: With Senate Democrats unlikely to regain their supermajority this term, plans to increase taxes or put constitutional amendments on the ballot have gone down the drain, Dan Walters says.

WATER MAP: Restore the Delta, a group that opposes Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed water conveyance tunnels, will release a new map via teleconference at 2 p.m. showing how the largest exports of water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are used. The organization argues that Delta water exports are subsidizing unsustainable agricultural practices and could be used for the state's burgeoning fracking industry.

HEALTH HEARINGS: The Senate Select Committee on Autism and Related Disorders meets at 1:30 p.m. in Room 4203 of the Capitol to examine implementation of a 2011 law requiring private insurers to cover behavioral health treatment for individuals with autism. The Assembly Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care convenes at 2 p.m. in Room 437 for a hearing on aging as a women's issue.

ALZHEIMER'S ADVOCACY: The Alzheimer's Association is in town for its annual lobby day, urging support for bills that would require training in dementia care for employees of residential care facilities, expand access to adult day health care centers, and establish standards for appointing a conservatorship.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 1:24 p.m. to reflect that the Joint Legislative Audit Committee hearing has been rescheduled.

PHOTO: Ornate woodwork on the bar in one of the court rooms at the Yolo County Courthouse in Woodland on January 9, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton



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