Superior Court to Close Three Courthouses, Cut Caseload at Two Others
In Memo to Staff, Executive Officer/Clerk Cites $4 Million Cut in Security Budget
By DAVID WATSON, Staff Writer
The Los Angeles Superior Court plans to close three courthouses and relocate criminal cases at two others, the MetNews learned yesterday.
In a memorandum to court staff, a copy of which was obtained by the MetNews, Executive Officer/ Clerk John A. Clarke said the South Gate, Monrovia and Culver City courthouses will be closed. The memo, dated yesterday, did not provide an exact timetable for the closures, but said they will take place “over the next few months.”
Criminal cases currently being handled at the Huntington Park courthouse, and criminal custody cases being handled at the Malibu courthouse, will be relocated to other facilities, the memo said.
The memo did not say to where those caseloads would be moved, and a spokesperson for the court said yesterday he was unable to supply additional details, or even to confirm or deny the authenticity of the memo.
In the memo, Clarke said the actions were “necessary to assist the court in meeting the $4 million reduction in our security budget.” They will not result in “any staff lay-offs,” Clarke declared.
“Staff in the affected locations will be re-deployed based upon the needs of the court,” Clarke said.
The executive officer/clerk added:
“Court management will be working to develop the staff re-deployment plans and will share the information with the affected employees as soon as possible.”
At a hearing in Los Angeles last month chaired by state Sen. Joseph A. Dunn, D-Garden Grove, Superior Court Assistant Presiding Judge William A. McLaughlin warned that cuts in the state trial court budget proposed for next year by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger could “jeopardize all of our non-mandated services” and affect the court’s “ability to provide our core functions.”
McLaughlin said at the hearing that next year’s budget could require the Los Angeles court to reduce expenditures by as much as $10 million.
Dunn chairs the Senate Budget Subcommittee which oversees judicial branch funding. Last year, along with Sen. Richard Ackerman, R-Tustin, he spearheaded a compromise that avoided more severe cuts in court funding.
Budget Hearing Set
The state’s Judicial Council will hold a hearing in San Francisco tomorrow on the court’s budget crisis. That hearing will be chaired by Chief Justice Ronald M. George, with more than 20 speakers scheduled to present testimony on how the budget is affecting court programs and services.
Four judges and a commissioner are currently assigned to the Huntington Park courthouse, while the Malibu court has two judges and a commissioner.
The Culver City courthouse has two judges and a commissioner. The South Gate court has one judge and one commissioner, and the Monrovia courthouse currently has only a single commissioner assigned to it.
A court rule which became effective in January requires courts to seek public input before closing courthouses. Rule 6.620 was adopted to comply with the mandate of SB 144, sponsored by Sen. Martha Escutia, D-Norwalk, which was signed by then-Gov. Gray Davis in September and also went into effect at the beginning of the year.
The rule requires courts to “seek input from the public” before deciding on “[t]he planned, permanent closure of any court location for an entire day or for more than one-third of the hours the court location was previously open for either court sessions or filing of papers.”
Input must be sought at least 15 days prior to taking action, the rule states. While various means of notifying the public are permitted under the rule, it provides that notice “must be...[p]osted on the trial court’s Web site, if any.”
The Superior Court’s Web site, located at www.lasuperiorcourt.org, includes a “Public Notice” section which cites the new rule and states that the notices required under it will be “posted on this page.” But yesterday the page contained neither any notices regarding courthouse closures nor any other notices beyond information about the rule itself.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company