Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Panel to Consider AOC’s Cost-Cutting Plan in Light of Budget Hit
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A proposal advanced by the Administrative Office of the Courts slated for consideration at a meeting of the Judicial Council’s Trial Court Budget Working Group today calls for a 15.2 percent reduction to all branch services in order to absorb the $350 million in ongoing reductions to the judiciary’s budget mandated by the Budget Act of 2011.
For the first year, the 20-page proposal suggested the AOC and “non-adjudicatory branch entities” should be partially relieved of their share of the budget reduction to “provide time to plan for and implement ongoing cuts in a manner that would minimize disruptions in providing services and access to justice.”
Such “transition relief” is not necessary for the trial courts, the proposal’s authors claim, since they should be able to implement cuts and partially offset them through use of their accumulated reserves and other means.
According to the results of a survey of the state’s 55 trial courts conducted by the Judicial Council in June, however, such a reduction in funding would lead to significant adverse impacts on their ability to meet statutory time limits, provide access to the public, process cases, issue restraining orders, and manage their caseloads.
Sample responses released by the council indicated that the trial courts all were concerned budget cuts would inevitably lead to staff reductions, furloughs of up to four days per month, court closures or reduction in hours.
Respondents said recourses would have to be reallocated from civil and family law courtrooms in order to meet timeliness requirements for criminal cases, fee waiver requests and unlawful detainer actions.
“It will likely take two or three times as long as it does today to process any case filing that is presented to the court,” one respondent predicted.
Repondents also reported that annual conservatorship investigations, the Court Appointed Special Advocates program, bilingual outreach services, self-help centers, and specialty courts may be eliminated due to a lack of resources.
In an email yesterday to bench officers statewide, the Alliance of California Judges decried the AOC proposal as “an Armageddon in services to the public.”
The organization’s directors queried whether “an AOC statewide program, project, office or department is more important than an open court room,” and insisted the answer should be “no.”
They advised that the AOC “take a much sharper pen to its own statewide operations budget of $142 million,” suggesting a reduction of “at least” 50 percent.
“We cannot afford the AOC,” the alliance directors said.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company