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MCLE Self-Assessment Test

New revenue in governor’s budget boosts judicial branch spending

By Laura Ernde
Staff Writer

Gov. Jerry Brown earmarked $3.7 billion for the judicial branch in his 2015-16 budget introduced last month, which represents an additional $180 million in funding and extends of the court filing fee increases that were adopted during leaner times.

The proposal, which will be vetted by the legislature in the coming months, includes $90 million to boost trial court operations that was promised last year as part of a two-year commitment. The plan also calls for:

  • $42.7 million to cover the increased costs of providing health and retirement benefits to trial court employees.
  • $19.8 million to make up for a drop in revenue from fines and penalties.
  • $26.9 million to account for the increased workload caused by the passage of Proposition 47 last year, which requires courts to reclassify some low-level drug and theft crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.  

Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye pointed out that this would mark the third year of new investments after five years of cuts.

“I welcome the continued and additional investments,” she said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing the dialog and discussions with the administration and the Legislature about the new investment needed for the courts to deliver timely and meaningful access to justice in California.”

The cuts of previous years have taken a toll, forcing the closure of hundreds of courtrooms throughout the state.

But at a Judicial Council meeting last month, Cantil-Sakauye said she was optimistic about the future. Previously, she has outlined an approach, which she calls Access 3D, to provide a more efficient court system by ensuring three levels of access: physical, remote and equal.

Also last month, the chief formed a working group to take a close look at a report by the California State Auditor that questioned $30 million in expenditures over a four-year period.

Cantil-Sakauye noted that some of the auditor’s recommendations have been in process since 2012, when they were identified as a result of an extensive review by the Strategic Evaluation Committee (SEC) that she commissioned.

“Every organization should constantly re-assess and continuously improve itself,” she said. “We still have work to do. Our new Administrative Director, Martin Hoshino, has substantial governmental experience, and both the SEC report and the audit will be helpful resources for him as he continues that assessment.”

The chief talked at length about the audit and the state of the judiciary with NBC4 Los Angeles’ Conan Nolan.

Hoshino said the audit outlined some good recommendations, some of which can be done quickly and others that will require a longer analysis.

“I will give it the attention it fully deserves,” he said.