Courts hit hard in California budget cuts

July 18, 2011

Courthouses throughout California may soon be forced to put up “closed for business” signs as the state grapples with record budget cuts. [Mercury]

The state’s 58 trial courts will be the hard hit as they prepare to absorb $350 million in cuts this fiscal year and an equally harsh reduction projected for next year.

The state Judicial Council, the courts’ policymaking arm, meets Friday to consider recommendations that have judges throughout California alarmed.

“This is unprecedented,” said Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who heads the council. “There is no other way to say it. It is an amount that is startling to us.”

The fiscal crunch will result in longer waits for divorce filings, resolutions in business disputes, as well as delays in courthouse maintenance, and paying lawyers representing the poor.

The Judicial Council is leaving it up to local courts to decide if they want to save money by closing courthouses on occasion, unlike two years ago, when the council provoked an outcry by ordering such closures once a month for every court.

The budget strife has again sparked division within the California judiciary over the council’s approach to dealing with the cuts. The Alliance of California Judges, a group formed in the aftermath of the court closures, is infuriated by the trial courts’ share of the cuts, arguing the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts, the court bureaucracy, should be “cut to the bone” to salvage more money.

In addition, the group insists a controversial multibillion-dollar, statewide technology upgrade, which would overhaul and unify all of the courts’ computer systems, should be scrapped forever.

As of now, the council is considering a plan to save close to $100 million by putting the project on hold for one year, according to reports from court officials. The AOC, under fire in recent years for its rapid growth in tight times, is losing about 12 percent of its $116 million budget this year.

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Hey, can’t afford the judicial system? Shut it down, we won’t miss it.

Then what? Strap 6-shooters and call folks out who we have a grievance with? I’d be all for that, but I’d have to practice via watching Gunsmoke or something… ;-)

If they would streamline the legal process, and the CA Court rules that allow what are simple civil cases to be dragged out for two and three years with hundreds of filings and dozens of court appearances, there would be no budget issue in the CA Courts. The CA Judiciary runs the CA courts in an astonishingly inefficient way. It deserves to have its budget cut severely, even if there wasn’t a budget crisis.

Kind of off-topic, but I have begun to feel that being sentenced to court is akin to being punished before being proven guilty.

Take for example Loudmouth Lind. He has been screwed up and down by a newbie punk cop and a complicit DA, without the benefit of a trial. If it goes to trial he will be proven innocent, but his punishment has already been meted out.

Take for example a chickensh*t distracted driving citation. I believe first offense is advertised as 25 bucks. But by the time the admin fees and court fees are tacked on, it’s a couple of hundred even if you choose to simply forfeit bail and move on. It costs even more, I presume, if you actually choose to have some face time with the judge to plead your case.

The penalty IS the court system, and that’s wrong.

Well, they need to fine you in order to afford the person fining you. It’s quite simple really.

You wouldn’t want to be in non-compliance with the Bureau of Compliance, now would you?

Perhaps it would be a good time for the NTF to stop their unlawful raids on legal marijuana businesses and users. ( Probably even more people arrested just to meet their funding requirements than we even know about.) This would free up the courts tremendously.