Top Court Leaders Vote to Extend Closures Despite Harm to Public
Even as top California court administrators have received double-digit salary increases and plunged ahead with massive expenditures on an IT project that is already 500% percent more expensive than projected in 2006, the state's Judicial Council today told Californians that budget shortfalls require keeping our state's halls of justice closed to the children, families and businesses that are counting on them.
The state's Judicial Council, which administers courts in every county through the state's Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), voted today to continue closing courts statewide one day each month, a decision that will hurt kids and families who need timely access to the justice system.
"The court closures are putting the public in a precarious position. Already businesses, families and the public at large are feeling the impact from closed courts," Court Reporter Carolyn Dasher told the Judicial Council before the vote.
Two LA Superior Court judges abstained from the vote because the AOC had not provided complete financial data from all the courts. Judge Lee Edmon requested additional information before voting on closures because of budget disparities. LA Courts face steep budget deficits while other courts are in better financial shape.
Public defenders, court reporters, interpreters, judicial assistants, consumer attorneys and judges all spoke about the impact on the public of cutting court services.
"In this time when unemployment has soared over 10 percent, when public and private budgets are being slashed to deal with current economic realities, we have a duty to be open and available," said Tim Brandon, a court interpreter in Kern County. "Instead, what we have is a bureaucracy that is still hiring, still giving out raises, while cutting services. This would be unacceptable in any government agency. But from the justice system, it is abhorrent."