California Judiciary Slammed by Deep Budget Cuts
By: Melissa Riess on September 8, 2011
This June, the state legislature cut the budget for California’s judicial system by $350 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1. This budget cut signifies a 6.7 percent reduction in funding for trial courts, a 9.7 percent cut for the courts of appeal and the Supreme Court, and a 12 percent cut for the Judicial Council and the Administrative Office of the Courts – the centralized agency that oversees statewide court operations.
California’s trial courts are feeling the pinch. Los Angeles Superior Court plans to lay off 600 employees by this coming October to manage its reduced budget. Fresno Superior Court was forced to close four facilities, including its juvenile dependency court, and $14 million has been transferred from its budget to the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department. San Francisco Superior Court, among the hardest hit, initially anticipated it would have to lay off 40 percent of its staff and close 25 of its 28 civil courtrooms to manage the deficit. After weeks of negotiations with the Judicial Council, however, presiding Judge Katherine Feinstein was able to secure emergency funding sufficient to close the court’s $6.23 million budget deficit. Though the new funding plan will not eliminate the need for austerity measures, it will allow the court to reduce its staff by 15 instead of 40 percent, and close 14 civil courtrooms, rather than 25.