Friday, August 26, 2011
Local Superior Court Leaders Say They Will Lay Off Over 1,000
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
The Los Angeles Superior Court is preparing to lay off over 600 employees next October, and another 400 in April 2014, according to a memorandum officials circulated yesterday among judicial officers and staff.
“Given available resources, we do not expect to conduct any layoffs or furloughs in this current fiscal year,” Presiding Judge Lee Edmon and Executive Officer/Clerk John A. Clark wrote, but the court must “begin to adjust how we will do business in the future with a dramatically reduced budget.”
The Judicial Council last month approved committee recommendations allocating $350 million in cuts ordered by the Legislature for the fiscal year that began July 1, which reduced 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.
In the months to come, Edmon and Clarke said, the court will be “pulling back our services to reflect the fact that we will be a smaller court.”
They said the court is able to “delay the inevitable contraction” of its operations due to the diversion of money from technology and courthouse projects and from the savings achieved from 329 layoffs conducted last year.
“We achieved more than $45 million in savings” from the forced downsizing and natural attrition of 229 workers, and ended the last fiscal year with a fund balance of $93 million, Edmon and Clarke said.
This money, they explained, “will be used up over the next three years to delay layoffs” and offset anticipated budgetary shortfalls of $161 million in fiscal year 2012-13, and $204 million in fiscal year 2013-14, Edmon and Clarke said.
They added that the plan for the next three years includes no anticipated furloughs, “[s]elective attrition,” “sustainable non-labor savings,” and other “operational changes.”
Edmon and Clarke said they “are working at the state level to continue to ensure that trial court operations are the top funding priority for the judicial branch,” and pursuing efforts “toward reducing the cuts” already in place and to relieve the court of some of its statutory mandates.
“But in the end, it will fall upon us to make the difficult choices of which services we must compromise in order to deliver on our core obligations,” they said.
The current budget crisis “may be our greatest challenge ever,” Edmon and Clarke concluded, but “[o]ne way or another, together we will continue to make justice available to those who need it.”
Edmon previously saud the court will not be seeking emergency funding from the branch, although she voiced support for money to be given to courts in need of assistance in keeping their doors open, such as San Francisco
San Francisco Woes
That court has already issued layoff notices to 40 percent of its staff and has scheduled the closure of 25 civil courtrooms this fall. Presiding Judge Katherine Feinstein earlier this week laid the blame for her court’s dire fiscal situation at the feet of the Administrative Office of the Courts.
She asserted that her court was poised to layoff 122 employees last May, but AOC leaders advised against such a move because it would jeopardize a pending $230 million legislative package of new revenues and redirection of branch funds intended to backfill prior cuts.
Feinstein said her court acquiesced to this request, to its detriment, as the deal with lawmakers fell though and the one-year delay in implementing the court’s planned restructuring has forced it to lay off 80 more employees than it would have had to let go last year.
Had the court not followed the AOC’s advice, she said the court also would have ended the last fiscal year with a $15 million reserve, instead of its current $20.4 million deficit.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company