Thursday, July 21, 2011
Support for Administrative Funding Cuts Growing Within CJA, Judges Say
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
Several sources yesterday confirmed that some members of the California Judges Association are advocating for the group to take a stance in support of larger cuts in funding for the judiciary’s administrative arm in order to offset the impact of a $350 million cut to the judiciary’s budget on court operations.
This movement arises from media reports of statements attributed to CJA President Keith Davis which supported a Judicial Council committee proposal for a uniform 15.2 percent cut in funding for all branch entities in the next fiscal year.
These statements were cited by Kern Superior Court Judge David R. Lampe as his reason for tendering his resignation as a member of CJA in a letter to the group’s executive director, Stan Bissey, on Monday.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Loren McMaster resigned from the group the next day, explaining his decision in a letter to Bissey on Tuesday that CJA had “lost its ability to firmly stand up for the interests of the trial courts and their judges” and “decided to become a tool of the AOC and the Judicial Council.”
Davis did not return calls for comment yesterday, but CJA’s immediate past president, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Vicencia, and President-Elect David Rubin downplayed the suggestion of a significant rift within CJA, insisting the organization has always taken the view that the means employed to absorb the loss in funding for the branch should be geared towards preventing cuts to the trial and appellate courts.
Although Rubin declined to discuss “internal deliberative stuff,” Vicencia said he has “seen language” circulating about “redirecting funds from whatever source, including the AOC.” Vicencia also disclosed that “many on the board think that if we need to take money from the AOC, we should take a close look at its budget.”
The reallocation of money “from wherever we can get it” to “backfill” losses in funding for court operations, however, “was already our position,” Vicencia said.
“Nobody likes the decisions that have to be made,” he said, but “we have to redirect money to the courts,” since “the number one priority is keeping courts open.”
Rubin added that the statement he made on behalf of CJA at a meeting last Wednesday of the Trial Court Budget Working Group and the appellate court leadership remains the CJA’s position.
“I said we want to support the chief in her efforts to keep the courts open, that cuts should be designed to keep the basic court functions, and funding priorities should be on keeping court services to the public as high as possible,” Rubin recalled, so “we need to look at management and administrative costs first” as a source of savings.
Rubin emphasized that “our position has always been that these cuts [by the Legislature] are impossible,” noting actions taken by courts in San Francisco, Marin and San Joaquin to cope with the anticipated loss of funding.
Counties Cutting Back
The San Francisco Superior Court on Monday issued layoff notices to 40 percent of its staff, while court officials in San Joaquin have said they are poised to close a courthouse in Tracy, shutter two courtrooms in Lodi, and stop hearing small claims matters, starting in October. The Marin Superior Court has announced that it will be closing its juvenile courthouse in September.
Rubin contended that such measures are “the direct result of these unsustainable deep cuts” to the branch, and that the layoff of commissioners and referees in San Francisco was especially distressing because it “damages the ability of our branch to deliver justice to the citizens of our state.”
The council is scheduled to consider budget proposals from its committees at a meeting Friday, which recommend a cut in funding of 6.7 percent for California’s 58 trial courts, a 9.7 percent cut in funding for the California Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, and a 12 percent reduction in funding for the Judicial Council and AOC this fiscal year, to be followed by a 15.2 percent cut across-the-board the next fiscal year.
Vicencia said Davis and Rubin are slated to attend the council hearing and speak on behalf of CJA. “Something will be in writing” Vicencia said, that will be vetted by the CJA membership before Friday and “state our position very specifically.”
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company