Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Superior Court Executive Committee Backs Voluntary Pay Cut
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The Executive Committee of the Los Angeles Superior Court yesterday formally backed its presiding judge’s call for judges and commissioners to take a voluntary pay cut in order to ease the court’s budget crisis, officials said.
The vote, which court officials said was unanimous, came on the heels of a teleconference Friday, at which Presiding Judge Charles W. McCoy laid out his thinking.
While no one can force the judges, who are constitutional state officers, to take less than their statutory salaries of nearly $179,000, McCoy told the MetNews yesterday he had received an “overwhelmingly positive” response to his call for the voluntary cut. “We all want to do our part,” he said.
McCoy announced two weeks ago that the court will begin a furlough program July 15, continuing for at least 12 months, in which nearly all court operations will be closed down, and employees furloughed, on the third Wednesday of each month. The closures and furloughs are expected to save $18 million annually.
One Day of Pay
A 4.7 percent cut would be equivalent to one day of pay per month for each judge and court commissioner. Referees are being treated as employees and will be furloughed along with clerks, administrators, court reporters, and other staff members.
“Our judges will work actively and publicly for a statewide program that will permit judges individually to make voluntary contributions to lessen a problem that we know will affect courts throughout Los Angeles County and California,” McCoy said.
The Executive Committee vote, he added, “shows clearly our judges are overwhelmingly willing to step up themselves to help control our budget and achieve cost savings essential to preserving the justice system for its customers and partners throughout Los Angeles County.”
He pointed out, however, that any voluntary contribution plan must be developed on a statewide basis and approved by the Legislature. McCoy is a member of a team of judges around the state that is working with the Administrative Office of the Courts to develop such a plan.
McCoy declined to give details of what the state group is working on, in deference to the AOC, although Chief Justice Ronald M. George has already endorsed a once-a-month closure of all trial and appellate courts and a monthly furlough day for all employees.
The legislation that comes forward, McCoy said, should include a provision allowing voluntary give-backs to go to the local courts rather than the overall budget. That would be “a great motivator for our judges,” he said, adding that he would expect a “very significant” amount of money to be returned to the court, which has about 560 judicial officers.
He added that not a single judge has objected to him about the voluntary give-back.
The presiding judge acknowledged, however, that the millions of dollars the court could get back from the judges will only fill a small part of the hole in the court’s budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, especially with the governor having recently asked for an additional cut of more than $168 million in general fund support for trial courts—about 10 percent of the courts’ total budget.
Those cuts, along with similar-sized reductions in health, education, social services, and prison spending are needed, the governor said, in the wake of this month’s defeat of Propositions 1A through 1E.
The Los Angeles Superior Court’s share of those additional reductions could come to about $55 million, McCoy said, on top of previous reductions of $89 million that led the court to implement the furlough and a hiring freeze. If that occurs, he said, it will “wipe out any reserves we have and force us to consider alternatives that weeks ago were just unthinkable.”
He declined to be specific, but noted that during a similar crisis seven years ago, the court closed five courthouses and several lockups, none of which have reopened.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company