Gavel Grab

CA Judges: Our Courts are Under Siege from Budget Cuts

Under Gov. Jerry Brown’s state budget plan, California court officials continue to express their frustration that the courts are being left vulnerable by cuts to funding.

“It’s the fifth year of reductions to the judicial branch,” says presiding Sacramento Superior Court judge Laurie Earl in the Sacramento Bee. “We’re just a small piece of that state funding pie, but somewhere along the line something’s got to give.”

Brown’s budget plans may require the California court system to transfer $200 million from a special construction fund to keep the operating budget at a consistent level, the article says. Sen. Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) is seeking to restore some of the funds that were slashed.

“We’ve been cutting and slashing the justice system funding for several years now to the point where we’re closing courtroom doors all around the state, and it’s impossible to administer justice when you don’t have adequate courtrooms and adequate judges and adequate staffing,” Evans said.

Judge Lance Ito, the judge who oversaw O.J. Simpson’s murder trial, called the budget crisis a “slow motion train wreck since 2008.” Ito’s courthouse was closed after the most recent cutbacks, and he now moves between courts, reports the Associated Press.

Construction on courthouses in Sacramento, Nevada, Los Angeles and Fresno counties have been delayed indefinitely while funds are going to a Long Beach courthouse damaged by an earthquake, the article also notes.

A 2011 study on court funding illustrated just how devastating of an impact courthouse closings had on the public. It documented how a San Diego woman slept in her car outside a courthouse after she couldn’t get a hearing for a restraining order because of the court’s reduced hours.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye noted that “[e]veryone expects courts to be there when they need them. When you need us, you need us desperately and immediately.”

To read more about the court funding crisis in California, see Gavel Grab.

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