Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, July 27, 2001


Page 1


Davis Eliminates Truancy Court Funds Before Signing State Budget




SACRAMENTO (CAPITOL)—Gov. Gray Davis signed a $103 billion state budget yesterday, but not before using his line-item veto to cut $6.57 million from judicial branch spending proposed by the Legislature, including money for a truancy court pilot project in Los Angeles.

The governor cut $1.5 million earmarked for the truancy court experiment that had been endorsed by two prominent law-enforcement unions, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and the Los Angeles County Probation Officers Union.

“Actions related to truancy, family issues, and juvenile crime are already within the responsibility of the established family court system,” Davis wrote in his veto message. “It is not clear that further delineation of areas of responsibility within the courts is necessary, and such delineation could result in inefficiencies and duplication of efforts.”

The author of the truancy court legislation, Assemblyman Tony Cardenas, D-Mission Hills, praised the governor in general terms at a budget-signing ceremony in Sacramento, and did not mention the line-item veto that killed his proposal. As chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, Cardenas played a major role in negotiating this year’s spending plan.

Davis also cut $5 million from the $14.5 proposed by lawmakers for the Equal Access Fund, leaving the fund with the same amount it received last year. The money pays for the Judicial Council’s effort to make the court system easier to navigate for the growing number of pro per litigants.

Chief Justice Ronald George has been a vocal advocate of the Equal Access Fund, saying it is especially needed by family law litigants, who, according to the court’s statistics, are most likely to enter the courtroom without legal representation.

William Vickrey, administrative director of the courts, said George and the Judicial Council “strongly support” increasing the Equal Access Fund, but understand that the state’s fiscal problems meant not all budget requests could be fulfilled.

“The state is facing tough financial problems, so we’re not viewing this as him having rejected this, but that it is delayed ... depending on the budget circumstances,” Vickrey said.

 Davis said as much in his veto message.

 “California is heading into a difficult year with its softening economy and substantial revenue decreases,” the governor said. “... I am open to considering funding for this worthy program when the economy improves.”

 Also blue-penciled was $45,000 proposed for the hiring of a part-time employee to post unpublished opinions of the Courts of Appeal on the California Courts Web site.

“It is not clear that this is a priority of the Judiciary, and the need for funds to provide this service has not been demonstrated,” Davis wrote.

Vickrey said George and the Judicial Council “support the idea of providing easier access to those unpublished opinions,” but noted that the proposal wasn’t part of their budget request. It will be considered for inclusion in next year’s request, which is scheduled to be submitted to the governor in September, Vickrey indicated.

Overall, the budget preserves the status quo for the judicial branch. On Tuesday, George told the MetNews that given the fiscal problems caused by lagging tax revenue and increased spending on energy, “the judiciary has fared reasonably well.”

“Under the circumstances, we easily could have faced some substantial cutbacks from last year’s budget,” George said.

Even after the line-item vetoes, the court’s budget includes about $80 million more than last year’s, including new money to increase court security and to promote implementation of the “one-day or one-trial” jury service system.

The new budget does not include the 8.5 percent judicial pay raise sought by George, but it does have a 4 percent salary increase for the chief justice in his capacity as chair of the state Judicial Council.

A 4 percent raise also will go to administrative presiding judges of the Court of Appeal and presiding judges of superior courts with 15 or more judges. Presiding judges in superior courts with four to 14 judges will get a 2 percent raise. The raises will take effect Jan. 2 if the budget trailer bill SB 742 is signed by the governor.

Sandy Harrison, the governor’s budget spokesman, said the trailer bills will be signed “over the next several days.”


Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company