Judges warn that budget cuts threaten public services

June 28, 2011 7:52:40 PM PDT
California's new budget will cut $150 million from the state judiciary in the next fiscal year. This comes on top of $200 million the legislature already eliminated earlier this year. Superior Court executives and judges say the budget cuts will mean closed courtrooms, longer waits for filings and traffic ticket payments and delay other civil actions such as lawsuits.

"It's going to have a massive change in the way we deliver services to the public," San Mateo Superior Court Judge Judge Mark Forcum said.

San Francisco Superior Court will be among the hardest hit in the state, with a deficit of close to $14 million.

In the recent past, the San Francisco's courts have dipped into its reserve funds to prevent layoffs and cutbacks in crucial services. Now, it can no longer afford to do that.

The court's Chief Executive Officer Michael Yuen told ABC7 it will mean closing 40 percent of its courtrooms and laying off up to 200 employees. Yuen says many of the services provided for years will no longer be available to the public.

The Alliance of Judges is asking the State Judicial Council, which administers the judiciary's budget, to dump the $1.9 billion, much delayed and glitch-filled computer court management system called CCMS so that individual trial courts can use that money to offset their deficits.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye's staff told ABC7 she was unavailable to respond and instead issued a written statement saying, "The cumulative impact of the cuts to the courts in the last three years will have the effect of court closures, fewer services to court users and the spectre of more furloughs and layoffs for employees."

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