Friday, July 22, 2011
Judges’ Groups Seek to Restore Trial Court Funding
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The California Judges Association and Alliance of California Judges both said yesterday that they intend to call on the Judicial Council to take measures beyond those recommended by its budget committees to mitigate cuts in trial court funding at today’s meeting in San Francisco.
Both propose making cuts to the judiciary’s administrative functions as a money saving measure, and the CJA said it explicitly opposed a Judicial Council budget committee recommendation for a 15.2 percent cut to all areas of the branch in the next fiscal year, backpedaling the organization away from comments by its outgoing president which implied his support of the proposal.
San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Keith Davis, the CJA president, had been quoted in the San Jose Mercury News ask criticizing an alliance proposal for the Administrative Office of the Courts to absorb the brunt of $350 million in cuts approved by the Legislature last month as “an idea that doesn’t have a lot of support along the broad base of the judiciary.”
His organization’s statement yesterday, however, said the CJA is proposing just that.
The statement, which was attributed to Davis, said “the business of this branch is making certain California’s citizens have courts from which they can get justice every working day of the year.”
After last Wednesday’s meeting of the Trial Court Budget Working Group and appellate leadership “CJA understands that in the current fiscal crisis…there were no good choices to make,” and the committees were “forced to select among the least onerous options.”
The recommendations put forth by the committees were for a cut in funding for the trial courts by 6.7 percent, a 9.7 percent cut for the California Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, and a 12 percent reduction for the Judicial Council and Administrative Office of the Courts this year, which would increase to 15.2 percent across the board next year.
CJA’s statement yesterday advocated for the council to “examine other sources of money” restore funds cut from trial courts from last year and avoid cuts this year, such as “resources available to the Judicial Council through further cuts to branch administrative costs, including the AOC.”
The organization said it “does recognize that the AOC provides essential services to the trial and appellate courts,” but insisted “cuts should come primarily from those parts of the branch involving non-essential administration and management overhead.”
A proposal put forth by the Alliance asks the council “to set a goal of full mitigation” for recent funding cuts to the trial courts and direct the AOC to “determine and report back options from their budget or any other legally available source to achieve this additional mitigation.”
The alliance also suggests that allocations for the California Case Management System’s “development, deployment, maintenance, and operations be identified by staff as further mitigation and reported back to the Judicial Council.”
A spokesperson for the group remarked yesterday that the councils “is poised to make a far-reaching decision that will affect every trial court in the state and they do so without every option and all available information” as the AOC has “never proposed a recommendation wherein they suffer deep and significant cuts to the staff and programs.”
She contended the proposal coming from the budget committees “underscores staff priorities, and that is to maintain the AOC at the cost of open courtrooms.”
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company