Tuesday, March 19, 2002
Courts Improving but Need More Judges, Judicial Council Report Says
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The California courts are continuing to improve their service to the public, but need more judges, the Judicial Council of California said in its annual report made public yesterday.
“We are pleased to report that the California judicial branch began the year 2002 stronger, more independent, more effectively managed, and more service-oriented than at any other time in its history,” Chief Justice Ronald M. George, who chairs the council, and Administrative Director of the Courts William Vickrey, the council secretary, said in the introduction. “Improving access to equal justice for all remains our paramount goal.”
But to achieve that goal, the council said, the Legislature must provide the necessary resources, including judges. The courts, the report noted, account for less than two percent of the state’s budget.
The report reiterated the findings last year of the California Judicial Needs Assessment Project, conducted in consultation with the National Center for State Courts, that it will take 2,270 judicial officers “to resolve current caseloads efficiently and provide quality public service.”
This would mean a 12 percent increase in the total number of judicial officers and an 18 percent increase in the number of authorized judicial positions.
The project differs from past assessments in that it uses a methodology taking into consideration not only the number of cases a court hears, but the types of cases, the report explained. Workload standards were employed for 22 specific case types, with a calculation of the average number of minutes needed to resolve a specific type of case.
“They indicate, for example, that juvenile dependency cases consume considerably more time to resolve than routine traffic matters,” the council said.
Based on the statistics, the council has asked for 150 new judgeships to be phased in over a three-year period. But it will not sponsor the necessary legislation “until the state’s fiscal situation improves,” the report noted.
The report is in large measure a summary of prior reports issued by the council and made publicly available on its website, www.courtinfo.ca.gov. The site “is growing as a public access tool for millions of Californians,” the report noted.
The council reported that the site had more than 4 million visitors and more than 12 million page views last year, with the average visit lasting nearly nine minutes. The most popular stops last year were, in order, court forms, appellate opinions, the tour of California courts, site search, superior courts, the California Rules of Court, the job-search page, the self-help center, the Supreme Court, and the Courts of Appeal.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company