Judicial Branch Accountability: Audits and Legislative Reports

Since January 1, 2013, the Judicial Council has provided to the Legislature more than 4,500 pages of audits and reports, enough to fill eight large binders.

External Audits

Judicial branch entities regularly undergo external audits by the California State Auditor, the State Controller’s Office, and the Department of Finance’s Office of State Audits and Evaluations (OSAE).

The Department of Finance: In 2014, the Judicial Council will undergo an independent financial audit by OSAE, in compliance with legislation passed in 2012. This will be the second such independent audit by OSAE in the last three years.

The previous audit, performed at the Judicial Council's request, assessed the council’s fiscal processes, internal controls, procedures, and financial statements. The audit report issued in May 2011 concluded that the council’s fiscal controls generally were adequate, and expenditures properly recorded. 

The California State Auditor assesses the financial and operational activities and federal compliance by state government entities, including the judicial branch.

Among other things, the State Auditor audits judicial branch entities on implementation of the Judicial Branch Contract Law, passed in 2011. This law contained a number of new requirements for judicial branch procurement and contracting. For example, it requires any judicial branch entity entering a contract costing more than $1 million to notify the State Auditor.

The first audit of trial court compliance with the new judicial contract law was conducted in 2013. The audit evaluated six trial courts and found they generally demonstrated good contracting practices and complied with the law. The contract law requires an audit of every trial court at least once every four years. 

The State Auditor is also required to audit the appellate courts, the Judicial Council, and the Habeas Corpus Resource Center on their compliance with the new contract law. The first round of audits has been completed. The Judicial Council is scheduled to be audited biennially starting in fiscal year 2014-2015.

Examples of other recent California State Auditor reports on judicial branch entities:


The State Controller’s Office regularly audits court collections remitted to the State Treasurer and their distributions. These audit reports are conducted for each county.

California Technology Agency Reviews


Contracts for information technology projects with total costs over $5 million are subject to review by the California Technology Agency (CTA). Recently, the Superior Court of Orange County informed CTA of a systems development project meeting criteria for CTA review.

Case management system development projects at three superior courts are also currently undergoing CTA review. These reviews involve regular reporting to the Judicial Council’s Technology Oversight Advisory Committee.

Legislative Reports

Beyond audits, the Judicial Council also reports regularly to the Legislature. In 2013, the agency sent the legislature approximately 30 required reports, totaling hundreds of pages. Some reports are due annually, biennially, or quarterly.

All reports to the Legislature are posted on the California Courts website.

Example reports:

  • In October 2013, the council reported on all approved allocations and reimbursements to the trial courts. Full report
  • In August 2013, the Judicial Council reported on plans by each of the 58 local trial courts to use the $60 million they received in the Budget Act of 2013 to improve public access. The report will be followed up with a final report in May 2014.
  • The comprehensive report detailing all judicial branch contracts, submitted twice annually, regularly reaches at least 700 pages. The most recent such report is from February 2014.

Internal Audits


The Trial Court Funding Act of 1997 made the Judicial Council responsible for financial oversight of the trial courts. This law led to establishment of the Judicial Council's Office of Internal Audit Services.

All internal audit reports are posted to the California Courts website
.

Internal unit audits
: The Office of Internal Audit Services performs internal audits of Judicial Council units, such as its September 2012 audit of the Facilities Management Unit.


Court revenue audits
:  By law, all superior courts are audited at least once every four years. These audits ensure compliance with governing statutes, rules, regulations, and policies relating to revenues, expenditures, and fund balances.

Court Construction Program audits:  The Judicial Council in 2012 contracted with Pegasus Global Holdings, Inc. to audit the policies and processes used to manage its multi-billion-dollar court construction program. The first audit report was issued in August 2012, and the capital program office is implementing all recommendations. The audit will encompass a multi-year review.

Strategic Evaluation Committee
: In March 2011, Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye appointed the Strategic Evaluation Committee (SEC) to conduct an in-depth review of the staff arm of the Judicial Council, then referred to as the AOC, with a view toward promoting transparency, accountability, and efficiency. The committee’s final report recommended significant changes to restructure and realign staffing of the Judicial Council.

In August 2012, the Judicial Council adopted the SEC’s recommendations, creating 151 directives. These directives reaffirmed Judicial Council authority over its staff. To date, more than 100 directives have been completed.

July 2014

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