Monday, March 2, 2009
Judge McCoy Tells Breakfast Club Reallocation Needed
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge Charles “Tim” McCoy called Friday to reallocate resources from the court’s civil section to other areas in light of the population’s needs in the current economic downturn and the court’s limited resources.
In a talk before the Breakfast Club—a dues-paid organization open to any lawyer practicing within Los Angeles County who primarily endorses candidates for the Board of Governors—McCoy emphasized the importance of “biting the bullet early” to ensure the court’s long-term fiscal survival.
The presiding judge said the court had accrued a “cushion” of about $70 million dollars saved over the years and had made it last year “pretty okay” without having to touch much of its reserve, but warned, “this year, we’re going to have to start making some moves.”
Although McCoy promised “to try to avoid draconian measures,” he explained “the more draconian you are in the beginning, the more you save down the line.”
Opining that county residents’ needs are ever increasing, McCoy insisted that the courts “have to stay operating, no matter what,” because “when society is needy, that’s when they need us most.”
In order to “do more with less,” he said he plans to recruit college students interested in the law to help self-represented litigants so litigants are better prepared and utilize fewer courtroom hours and resources while still “show[ing] the system is fair and can support their needs.”
Additionally, the judge said an increase in the caseload of the central civil section judges at the Stanley Mosk courthouse “is going to have to happen” as the court shifts resources toward the areas “often looked upon as the backwater of the law,” such as the probate and family law departments.
“We have to shift to meet the growing needs of our population,” he insisted.
McCoy acknowledged “the future looks bleak,” but maintained that the court’s history proves “it gets better in times of crisis,” and said that he viewed the court’s current financial concerns as an opportunity to make change allowing the court to improve as an organization.
Another plan to improve the court system McCoy said he hoped the court would continue to implement after his term of office was his “democratization of the appointment process.”
The judge said he had formed a committee consisting of Assistant Presiding Judge Lee Edmon and various supervising judges to negotiate judicial assignments and make recommendations so that the assignment process is more transparent and fair.
Reflecting on his first two months in office, he said he learned “two important things” from the first challenge he faced as the leader of the court: last year’s ruling in Sturgeon v. County of Los Angeles (2008) 167 Cal.App.4th 630 that the payment of benefits to supplement the salaries of Los Angeles Superior Court judges, was unconstitutional.
The first, he said, was that “despite the rub between the [Administrative Office of the Courts] and the Superior Court, it is possible to get on the same page and go get ‘em,” referring to the joint efforts by the court and the AOC to obtain legislative approval of SBX2 11, which authorizes counties to continue supplemental judicial benefit programs.
McCoy said the second thing he learned was that “there has never been a time in the history of the Los Angeles Superior Court that is has been more aware of [the legal community’s] support,” thanking bar associations who “beat our doors down to come help us” by filing amicus briefs siding with the Superior Court’s judges after the Sturgeon decision.
“The judges of the Los Angeles Superior Court are grateful,” McCoy said. “And that appreciation will last for a long time.”
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company