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More than a decade of fighting and arguing and litigating and alibiing about California's prisons might be coming to an end today. Well, maybe not, because whatever the judges do on the issue of a state prison population cap is bound to get appealed and lead to even more fighting and arguing and litigating and alibiing.

But it's still going to be a big day in the world of prison litigation, when two federal judges convene a hearing at U.S. District Court in Sacramento to decide whether to empanel a "three-judge court." The court would be the first step toward the judges laying a prison population cap on the state.

Plaintiffs' lawyers are looking for an early release order for up to 35,000 inmates.

In a prison world already overrun by special masters, receivers, court monitors and the like, the imposition of a population cap would be one of the most significant decisions to hit the prison system ever.

Or at least since San Quentin first opened for business in 1852.

Judges Lawrence Karlton and Thelton Henderson could rule from the bench today on the issue of the three-judge court.

The hearing begins at 10:30 a.m.

If that weren't enough prison talk for one day, James Tilton, the secretary of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, is up for confirmation in the Senate Rules Committee.

Also, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee meets to consider new requests for audits, including a request by Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas of the Board of Chiropractic Examiners.

Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata's Iraq War resolution will garner its first official policy hearing after being whisked straight to the floor in the Senate. The Assembly Elections Committee meets today to discuss the measure.

And the so-called Big Four - the legislative leadership minus Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger - is scheduled to meet to continue negotiating the budget at 4 p.m.

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