Friday, May 20, 2011

AB 1208 Amendments Draw Objections from AOC

Assembly Member Calderon
The battle over Trial Court Funding took an unexpected turn Wednesday (May 18), when Assembly Member Charles Calderon unexpectedly (at least to many) amended his AB 1208 to remove or revise a number of provisions of existing law relating to the Judicial Council's authority to allocate funding.

The amendments, which came into print Thursday morning, would delete the Judicial Council's current discretionary authority to allocate funding for trial court operations, and would instead generally require that the amount allocated to each trial court from the amount appropriated for trial court operations be equal to the pro rata share of the prior fiscal year's adjusted base budget. The amendments would also require the Judicial Council to allocate 100% of the funds appropriated for trial court operations according to each court's share of statewide operational funding, and would delete the Judicial Council's ultimate responsibility to adopt a budget, to allocate funding for the trial courts, and to authorize a trial court to carry unexpended funds over from one fiscal year to the next (unexpended funds would become the property of the court under the bill). 

According to news accounts, the amendments have drawn strong objections from the Administrative Office of the Courts' Office of Governmental Affairs, who contend they breach the agreement reached with the members and chair of the Assembly Judiciary that enabled a much stripped-down version of AB 1208 to pass out of that committee (see earlier post).  Calderon rejects the allegation, saying the bill "simply places the Legislature in the position where they are constitutionally required to be, and that is appropriation of funds."

AB 1208 is in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, where it is expected to be heard next week.

AB 1208 is sponsored by the Alliance of California Judges, which was formed in late 2009 to address what its members characterized as the "unprecedented financial crisis now facing our judicial branch."  The bill was supported by a range of courts and judges statewide, and opposed by a varied coalition including the Judicial Council, Consumer Attorneys of California, California Defense Counsel, Civil Justice Association of California, Bar Association of San Francisco, and various other California courts and judges. A recent issue (see earlier post) concerning an alleged split over support for the bill by the membership of the California Judges Association (which has not taken a position) reportedly has been resolved. 

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