In California, the budget crisis is hiking up college tuition costs.
Not only that.
The budget crisis has ransacked redevelopment agencies and hammered funding for social services across the state.
In addition, the fiscal clutch will be strongly felt around California’s courthouses. It will produce longer waits for people filing for divorce or those ironing out legal feuds between Silicon Valley companies. There will be trouble paying the appointed lawyers for the poor and delays in fixing broken air conditioners in courtrooms.
Moreover, people will see “closed for business” signs hanging from courthouses all around the state.
According to experts, courts in California will suffer a record budget blow. And to make matters worse, there’s already a grim reduction projected for next year.
On Friday the courts’ policy making arm which is the State Judicial Council, will meet to contemplate on various recommendations.
The $350 million cut is startling everyone in the council. The budget cuts will definitely affect California’s 58 trial courts.
The judicial council had a closed-door meeting in San Francisco last week and if they approve the approach that was endorsed, $135 million will be lost in local courts that already began July 1 and another $170 million next year from an total budget of more than $3 billion.
That translates into a loss of $6.8 million this year for Santa Clara County and maybe more in the next year.
Alameda County’s court system will be cut by more than $6.7 million and San Mateo County courts will take at least $2.7 million.
Another court that will be affected is Contra Costa County’s court which will absorb more than $3 million in cuts and perhaps be forced to cut even more from next year’s budget.
As a result of the latest round of state cuts, Santa Clara County’s plans to build a new family courthouse in downtown San Jose could be in jeopardy.
Lawmakers have ordered California courts to divert about $130 million from a courthouse construction fund to help pay for this year’s shortfall, as part of the final budget deal. Santa Clara County’s presiding judge Richard Loftus said he is positive their courthouse will be affected because it is moderately far along in the process.
But until California’s judicial leaders determine which projects will be on hold in the coming year, then the worry is still there.
On the other hand, the Judicial Council is letting the local courts decide if they want to save money by closing courthouses on occasion.
San Francisco and Merced County said the cuts will bring about closures, reduced court hours or layoffs while Santa Clara County has no plans to close the courts for now.
The council’s approach to dealing with the budget crisis has caused a division within the California judiciary.
A group formed as a result of the court closures, The Alliance of California Judges is enraged by the trial courts’ share of the cuts. According to them, California’s Administrative Office of the Courts should be cut to the bone in order to save more money.
Furthermore one thing that the group insists should be scrapped forever is the controversial multi-billion dollar, statewide technology upgrade which will fix and unify all of the courts’ computer systems.
The AOC is losing about 12 percent of its $116 budget this year.
However there are still some people who have defended the across-the-board cuts.
And that’s the chief justice and other influential groups including the California Judges Association. They said the bureaucracy and tech project are being unfairly criticized.
Meanwhile, the cuts are already affecting some courts.
As the judges do their best in averting layoffs and deal with tens of millions of dollars in cuts already in place, nearly 100 court workers in Santa Clara County have already been shed off in recent years.
According to the court’s chief executive David Yamasaki, it takes days for court employees now to answer phone calls from the public and weeks to finalize court judgements compared to only a matter of days before.
California’s judicial leaders said once the next two years of cuts happen, the people can expect worse.
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