The Joint Legislative Audit Committee was set to vote Tuesday on Assembly Member Reggie Jones-Sawyer’s proposal for a top-to-bottom audit of the Judicial Council and the AOC. The vote was postponed until Wednesday, March 12 at 2:00 p.m. due to an unexpected illness.
We can use the extra time wisely. If you cling to any hope of adequate funding for the judicial branch in the 2014-2015 budget, you need to support this audit. The Governor has little faith in our branch’s administration. The Legislature has less. Only through a rigorous, unbiased audit can we restore the trust in our branch that was lost, along with $500 million of taxpayer money, in the CCMS debacle. Please contact the members of the committee (listed here) and urge them to vote yes.
Sadly, one voice that has yet to join the chorus of support is that of our Chief Justice. It’s been six weeks, but she has yet to respond to Alliance President Steve White’s letter inviting her to work together with the Alliance to bring about the audit.
We attach a piece from the Sacramento Bee website that details the Alliance’s role in advocating for the audit. The article repeats an assertion made by the Chief Justice when advised of the audit request: that this audit would be the AOC’s third in four years. We disagree. The SEC review, as masterfully written as it may have been, was not an audit; the SEC Committee took great pains to make that clear in the report. The Pegasus Holdings audit covered only a handful of construction projects. The State Auditor’s semi-annual reports on AOC procurement practices are narrow in their focus and involve just a few counties. There has never been a careful, independent accounting of every fund and every program administered by the AOC designed to answer the key question: Can this money be better spent on the trial courts?
The Directors of the Alliance of California Judges
The Sacramento Bee CapitolAlert ®
AM Alert: Reggie Jones-Sawyer seeks audit of judiciary spending
The 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.
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.
Alexei Koseff writes the AM Alert. Got a news tip? Send it our way at firstname.lastname@example.org.