Assemblyman De La Torre: 'Essential LA Court Services Must Be Preserved'
Assemblyman Hector De La Torre knows about why functioning courts matter for LA businesses and families. "Government accountability means making sure that the public's interest is prioritized above everything else: essential court functions must be preserved," he wrote in an op-ed in the Daily News.
He called on the Administrative Office of the Courts to "reshuffle their priorities to keep the courthouse doors open with needed staff to serve the public." Read the full article below.
Hector De La Torre: L.A. court funding shortfall threatens to exacerbate economic crisis
Los Angeles Daily News
February 24, 2010
Los Angeles County courts are facing a crisis that not only threatens justice in our communities, but also threatens to upend the economic recovery of families in our region.
Without immediate action, the crisis within the Los Angeles County court's budget will force the layoff of more than 800 Los Angeles County court employees by the end of this year - with a total loss of 1,827 jobs over the next two years. In addition, more than 180 courtrooms and 9 courthouses in Los Angeles will be closed. Overall, more than 30 percent in workforce reduction. Not included in these losses are Los Angeles area legal services and regional effected business economic losses. As operating capacity declines, utilization of local legal services will be significantly reduced.
Every day I hear from constituents who need to get back to work to support their families. I believe government needs to work overtime to facilitate these jobs. That is why I am especially concerned that backlogs of court cases and closed courthouses will harm private sector job growth.
At the same time, closing courtrooms and laying off skilled court workers will add to unemployment and hurt our local economy.
Without access to courts and certainty that cases will be resolved in a timely manner, business owners don't have the assurance they need to invest in new infrastructure and technology. Delayed litigation ties up resources. New acquisitions can't be made. The bottom line is job creation is halted.
Los Angeles' diverse communities have already been hit hard by court closures. Driven by massive cuts made by the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), the statewide body which oversees trial court budgets, the Los Angeles Superior Courts has already been forced to close its doors to the public one day each month.
Backlogs result in children being forced to stay in foster care longer than necessary, restraining orders for domestic violence victims take longer to process (keeping them in violent environments), and arrest and search warrants have been delayed, jeopardizing public safety.
Government accountability means making sure that the public's interest is prioritized above everything else: essential court functions must be preserved.
With layoffs imminent, our justice system and our economy depend on our making the right decisions now. The AOC can either help to fix the courts or it can ignore its obligation to the people of Los Angeles County.
The AOC claims that it has no funds available to keep the courts open. But the legislature does not have enough access to fiscal information to provide an independent analysis of this claim. However they do it, the AOC officials must reshuffle their priorities to keep the courthouse doors open with needed staff to serve the public.