Thursday, June 23, 2011
Court Leaders Voice Objection to Proposed Budget Cuts
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The six administrative presiding justices of the California Courts of Appeal, along with and the presiding judges court executive officers of the state’s 58 trial courts yesterday sent a letter to the governor and legislature objecting to lawmakers’ efforts to further reduce the judicial branch’s budget.
Court leaders expressed their “strong and unified opposition” to a proposal last week to reduce the judicial branch budget by $150 million, on top of a $200 million budget cut made earlier this year, according to excerpts from the letter in a release from the state Judicial Council.
“The impact of this action would be nothing short of catastrophic to the administration of justice and the public we serve,” the letter said, and such “additional reductions will affect the civil rights of every Californian and render precarious our democratic ideal of justice for all.”
A $150 million cut “will be unsupportable,” the court leaders wrote, and represents a disproportionably large cut to the judiciary, since the branch represents approximately 2.88 percent of the state budget, but the proposed reduction to its funding comprises 3.5 percent of the suggested budget solution.
This year also marks the third consecutive year of “crippling budget reductions,” the letter declared, resulting in a permanent decrease in baseline funding of $297 million. An additional cut of $150 million would mean that the judicial branch will have absorbed a cumulative reduction of more than 30 percent in General Fund support, the letter said.
If such a cut is made, court leaders warned the citizens of California “may find the clerk’s office closed or courtrooms not in session, as public counter and courtroom hours will be reduced,” so “[t]he public will experience longer lines, backlogs in the processing of filings and judicial orders, and significant encroachment on due process rights of defendants as interpreters become less available and other courtroom support services are sharply diminished.”
They asserted that “entire case loads may be underserved” if courts are required to dedicate all available resources to the highest priority filings, like criminal and juvenile proceedings, which could leave vulnerable constituents, such as victims of domestic violence, unable to receive protective orders in a timely manner.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company