Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, March 8, 2010


Page 1


Superior Court to Lay Off 329 Workers April 1, More to Come


By a MetNews Staff Writer


A memo sent to all staff by Los Angeles Superior Court Executive Officer John A. Clake Friday and obtained by the MetNews announced the layoffs of 329 employees on April 1 and warned that hundreds more were anticipated to follow.

“We are experiencing a structural deficit from which there will be nothing that looks like a recovery,” he told the court staff. “We are, instead, charting a course toward ‘the new normal’ for the California trial courts. We will become a smaller court.”

The court currently has a $79.3 million deficit for the fiscal year that began last July and expects this shortfall to grow to $140 million for the next fiscal year and remain at that level for the foreseeable future, Clarke said.

To deal with this “new budget reality,” Clarke said the court “must contract in a rational way, using time to adjust,” and laid out the court’s eight-part spending plan for the next four fiscal years.

Clarke insisted that the court had “available few areas of savings outside of staff” and that “layoffs are inevitable due to the size of the problem we have been given.”

Salaries and Benefits

He explained that roughly 80 percent of the court’s budget goes to the salaries and benefits of those who support the judges and who serve the attorneys, jurors and members of the public who walk through the courthouse doors, and that the court will be releasing 329 employees on April 1.

These employees will be those with the least amount of seniority or those in programs selected for reduction, Clarke said.

He said that the court’s spending plan requires calls for the depletion “at a measured pace” of the court’s savings to allow for attrition and delay further staff layoffs, although he anticipated another round of layoffs in September, affecting 500 employees, and a third cut of 530 positions in the fall of 2011.

Combined with attrition, Clarke  predicted that this third wave of cutbacks would leave the court with 1,800 fewer employees—a loss of roughly 35 percent of its workforce.

He cautioned that the exact timing and size of the layoffs would be “determined largely by the decisions made by state policy makers in the coming months,” and that the subsequent layoffs “may be more or less; they may be sooner or later.”

Closures Expected

As the layoffs, coupled with the court’s ongoing hiring freeze and anticipated attrition, “will leave our Court unable to support the current level of case processing,” Clarke said the court “will see closures of courtrooms and courthouses” in the future as well.

The spending plan also calls for continuation of the court’s monthly furloughs through June 2012, regardless of whether court closures continue statewide, and for continued lobbying for increased funding from the Legislature.

Clarke said the court would continue to seek reallocation of monies generated by SB 1407 for courthouse construction projects to court operating budgets.

Authored by Sen. Don Perata, D-Oakland, and signed into law in 2008; SB 1407 is supposed to provide $5 billion to help the state upgrade its courthouses, financed entirely though lease revenue bonds supported by an increase in penalties and assessments for traffic tickets and criminal convictions. The first 15 projects funded by SB 1407 got under way last July.


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