Wednesday, September 18, 2002
Budget Cuts to Close Two Juvenile Traffic Courts, Restrict Referees
By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer
Courtrooms reserved for juvenile traffic cases in Newhall and Glendale will close and use of per diem referees will be sharply cut back in response to the Los Angeles Superior Court’s budget crisis, the MetNews has learned.
Juvenile Court bench officers were informed in a memo from Presiding Judge Michael Nash that referee use must be slashed quickly, and that starting Nov. 1 any bench officer taking vacation or other time off would have to clear his or her calendar and close the courtroom rather than rely on “as-needed” referees.
“While we are not entirely eliminating the usage of as-needed referees, any future usage must be approved by the Presiding Judge of the Juvenile Court on a case by case basis,” Nash said in the Sept. 11 memo.
The Superior Court’s Executive Committee is scheduled to meet today to vote on a broad proposal to slash expenses to grapple with an expected shortfall of at least $57 million, and to put in place cuts to address continuing low allocations.
The court is expected to receive about $20 million less in state funds for the current fiscal year than previously anticipated. The court already has laid off 150 employees.
The plan before the committee calls for at least 160 more layoffs, trimming 26 judicial full-time equivalent positions, and closing 29 courtrooms.
The plan also calls for elimination of all or most of the custody facilities at the Hollywood, South Gate and Monrovia courthouses to help cut $10 million from the court’s $105 million contract with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department for bailiffs, lockup guards and related services.
Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo was joined yesterday at the Hollywood Courthouse by two City Council members to urge the court to reconsider plans to close the lockup.
“Closing this courthouse during the Hollywood renaissance will surely bring back the dark ages,” Delgadillo said.
Under the proposal before the Executive Committee, each of the court’s 40 department heads would recommend 15 percent cuts in their own budgets.
Court spokesman Allan Parachini said yesterday that the reduction of the Juvenile Court’s as-needed referees—lawyers with court contracts who serve when called to fill in for an absent bench officer—was separate from the cuts in bench officers and department budgets that would be required under the plan.
The current case-threshold for bringing in an as-needed referee is 60 cases per day. That number will rise to 80, Nash said in his memo.
Nash was not available late yesterday for comment.
Cases now handled by the informal juvenile and juvenile traffic courts that would close in Glendale and Newhall will be sent to adult traffic courts, Nash said in the memo.
“These are current actions we must take,” Nash wrote. “I cannot say with ant degree of certainty that we will not have to do more or that everybody’s position in the court is totally secure.”
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company