Friday, August 1, 2003
New Budget Would Hike Fees to Pay for Trial Courts
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The state budget bill which Gov. Gray Davis is expected to sign tomorrow will hike a number of user fees in order to fund the courts.
That comes as no surprise to those who have been following the budget debate, as the parameters of the judicial branch budget component were laid out several weeks ago after discussions between judicial and legislative branch leaders.
In fact, the compromise that was finally approved late Tuesday in the Assembly differs from expectations in only one respect, officials said—an $11 million cut in court security funding.
An analysis by the Senate Republic Caucus explains that the Judicial Council is to “convene a working group on court security and promulgate and implement rules, standards, and policy direction for the trial courts in order to achieve efficiencies that will reduce security operating costs” by the $11 million figure.
How much of that cut will be in Los Angeles County, and how it will be implemented here, are open questions, Los Angeles Superior Court Assistant Presiding Judge William MacLaughlin told the METNEWS. But the cut is a relatively small matter, he said, given that the total funding for the trial courts statewide is just under $2.187 billion, an $85 million reduction from last year.
About $150 million in new funding will come from:
•Increasing the fee for limited jurisdiction cases involving more than $10,000, from $90 to $185.
•Increasing the small claims filing fee for those who file more than 12 cases a year, from $35 to $60.
•Increasing the summary judgment motion fee from $100 to $150.
•Creating a continuance fee of $100 for all civil and family law cases.
•Creating a “complex litigation fee” of $500.
•Creating a graduated filing fee for probate proceedings.
•Adding a $20 security fee to each civil filing.
•Adding a $25 court reporter fee to all appearances under an hour.
•Increasing the pretrial motion fee from $23 to $33.
The bill would also transfer $31 million in fees from the counties-which already collect them-to the courts.
The fee increases enabled the Legislature to limit the reduction in trial court funding to $85 million, compared to $116 million in cuts that Gov. Gray Davis proposed in May. Republican lawmakers, who held steadfast in their opposition to tax increases, generally joined their Democratic colleagues in supporting the fees.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company