200 Superior Court employees to be laid off

July 15, 2011 11:58:31 PM PDT
Budget cuts and layoffs are coming to San Francisco Superior Court, which means everything from divorces to lawsuits could drag on for years. They are drastic cuts to close a $14 million budget deficit.

The Superior Court handles more than 30,000 civil cases every year. On Monday, layoff notices will be sent to 200 workers who keep the wheels of justice turning.

On Friday, employees left work at San Francisco's Superior Court building and headed home for an unsettled weekend.

"Everybody's future is up in the air. So I'm trying not to think about it until I know what's actually going to happen," said Jennifer Pasinosky, a court employee.

What's going to happen is a drastic reduction in the number of employees and courtrooms. The layoff notices will target court reporters and clerks, administrative staff members will lose their jobs, and that's on top of the 11 court commissioners who were let go this week. Twenty-five out of the 63 courtrooms will close. Civil cases will take the brunt.

"You can still file a civil case, but it's going to sit on a shelf with hundreds of papers, stacks of papers, and it won't see a courtroom for at least five years. It could take at least a year and a half to get a divorce. It could take months to get copies of court records. It could take you a full day of standing in line to get your traffic ticket paid in our criminal division," said Superior Court spokesperson Ann Donlan.

San Francisco Superior Court blew through a $10 million reserve hoping to avoid layoffs. Then, lawmakers cut $200 million in March and another $150 million last month. Court officials say unless there's a miracle, October 3 will be "D-Day" for the cutbacks to take effect.

"Apparently the governor and legislature have not put the courts at the top of their priority lists. In fact, we appear to be at the bottom and there's going to be really severe impacts for the public as a result," said Donlan.

Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, put blame on former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for eliminating the car tax.

"This is the dismantling of the State of California and until we can access, not new revenue, but former revenues, we're going to see this horrible pain placed on Californians," said Leno.

"A lot of people are going to be laid off, about 40 percent of the court staff, and apparently we're going to hear next week what's going on," said Pasinosky.

The layoffs will take effect on September 30.

The new state budget calls for another $4 billion in unanticipated revenue and if that money does not come in, the cuts to the court system could be even deeper.

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