Friday, January 11, 2013
Chief Justice, Others Decry Cuts in Brown’s Budget
By JACKIE FUCHS, Staff Writer
California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, yesterday issued a joint response to cuts to the judiciary set forth in Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed 2013-14 budget.
That budget contemplates a transfer of $200 million out of the Immediate and Critical Needs Account, which provides construction money for the state’s aging court infrastructure.
“[T]he judicial branch sees both reasons for hope as well as reasons for concern in the Governor’s proposed budget,” Cantil-Sakauye said in the release. “The good news is that it appears our trial courts will not suffer additional general fund reductions for the 2013-24 fiscal year. Unfortunately, our immediate and critical needs account, which is vital for court safety and compliance projects, stands to lose another $235 million, nearly eliminating meaningful upgrades for several years.”
Evans added in the release:
“Access to justice is a core tenant of our Democratic values… Although this budget proposal spares deeper cuts, the buildings which house justice are still crumbling and we have no further resources to rebalance the scales of justice.”
Consumer Attorneys of California, which represents the plaintiffs’ tort bar, issued its own release, in which its president, Brian Kabateck, commended the governor’s finance team for avoiding deep operational cuts to California’s courts.
But, he added:
“At first blush the governor’s new budget appears to maintain the status quo. Unfortunately, with the courts absorbing more than $1 billion in cuts over the past five years, the status quo… has been a disaster… And it’s the public – particularly the poor, the elderly, women, children, veterans – who suffer for it.”
CAOC cited, as an example, the Los Angeles Superior Court, which it noted “has been forced to make upward of $85 million in cuts to programs that have resulted in the on-going closure of 10 full courthouses… and other operational changes that have the net effect of creat[ing] long lines for basic services and slowing the administration of justice..”
Kabateck also lamented a possible increase in court user fees to support the ongoing workload of the trial courts, which he says would come on top of $116 million in fee hikes already enacted by the state during the 2010-11 and 2012-13 budget years.
If court funding from the state’s General Fund money isn’t restored, he said, the courts could be pushed toward collapse.
Copyright 2013, Metropolitan News Company