Results tagged “Michael Planet” from The Court Reporter

MABA Luncheon Speakers Will Discuss Courts' Finances and Future Plans

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The "State of the Court" luncheon will be held Feb. 1 and is sponsored by the Ventura County Mexican American Bar Association.

Ventura County Superior Court Presiding Judge Brian Back will talk about the evolving plans for the direction of the court.

Michael Planet, the executive officer of the Superior Court, will give a report on the courts' financial situation.

The event will be held from noon to 1 p.m. at the Tower Club, 300 E. Esplanade Drive, Floor 22, in Oxnard.

For more information: Contact: Tawnee N. Pena at 764-6370 or email her at tpena@rstlegal.com.

 

Michael Planet and Co. Have Some Tough Decisions Ahead

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Michael Planet hasn't been his jovial self lately.

I spotted him walking down the Hall of Justice hallway  today.  Michael Planet is the executive officer of the Ventura County Superior Court.

Michael, his administration along with the presiding judge Vincent O'Neill have been having meetings and endless discussions about the best way to tackle the local budget deficit, which just grew almost overnight from $10 million to an additional $3 million.

Scrap the $10 million proposed plan, unfurl the new  budget deficit with the bigger blow -- $13 million.

Michael has a great sense of humor but lately, there has been a look of frustration and concern on his face.  There is uncertainty about where the state's budget is going to take Ventura County's and other state courthouses and at what price to those seeking justice.

In Ventura County, Michael said nothing is being ruled out. There could be more job cuts,courthouse closures or further reducing administration hours.

Across the state there has been wholesale closure of courtrooms, very long lines just to file civil cases or retrieve records and hundreds of courthouse staff being handed pink slips.

Recently, the budget deficit resulted in the recent decision to move all the courtrooms from Simi Valley to Ventura by the end of June. There is only one remaining court, which is a civil court, is still in Simi Valley.

People from East County will now have to travel to Ventura to seek justice.

I never pass an opportunity to talk to Michael about many things, including football, great places to visit and of course, what's going on at the courthouse.

What going to happen to the empty courtrooms in Simi Valley, any chance of leasing office space or something there? I asked.

Good question, Planet said, adding that there has been no decision on the Simi Valley courthouse, aside from keeping some administrative offices there.

Planet said he didn't think it was a good idea to lease space even if it could be done, noting that he has a friend who works in commercial real estate and that business has slowed down considerably.

We shifted our conversation  to Catholic schools vs. the public school system, then, for some reason, about nuns and catechism.

We went back to talking about the state budget deficit.  I told him that the state should explore the idea of a marriage between business and public state agencies. I said that the post office, I believe, toyed with the idea many years ago of allowing free business advertising on stamps in exchange for big bucks.

We went back and forth on the pros and cons of a possible alliance between business and the state's courthouses.

This time the conversation took a turn into the land of crazy.

 "You know what would be cool?  Judge's wearing the black robes with the Nike swoosh sign up top," I joked. "If I was a judge and this business thing got a green light, I'd want the swoosh sign on my robe."

"Yeah," he chuckled.

"Or, what about something like a "T.J. Towing" ad on the other side of the robe in the front?" I continued.

I said judges could look like those racecar drivers who have STP and Pennzoil and dozens of other ads on their uniforms.

"What about "Bud Light" on the back of the robe," Planet said and laughed.  "Or, it could be 'This Space for Rent' sign on the robe."

"Yeah, or something like Beto and Sons' Bail Bonds with an 800 number in wide letters in the back of the robe," I suggested.

"Yeah, yeah," he said.  

"Run it by Judge O'Neill," I said. "See what he thinks."

We both laughed.

"I am glad we had this conversation," he said as we ended our brief chat.

Michael said it made him feel a better.

In a few weeks,  Michael Planet, Judge O'Neill and other courthouse administrators have the very grim task of making some very tough choices,  deciding where to make more cost cutting decisions, including the possibility of having to let go more employees into an already shakey economy.

 

Courthouse Budget Deficit Could Go Up Another $3 Million

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The financial train wreck known as the state budget is expected to take another large chunk from California's courthouses, many are still limping from the last cuts, including Ventura County.

Ventura County Superior Court Executive Officer Michael Planet said Friday that the budget deficit this fiscal year, which begins on July,  is now expected  to be as high as $13 million, up  $3 million.

This means austere reductions, including closing and relocating all the Simi Valley courtrooms to Ventura by June 25.

"It's not clear what the impact will be on the trial courts," said Planet, adding that the state's courthouses need more clarification from Sacramento.

Planet said everything will be reviewed, including more cuts in staff and hours, which will result in longer lines to file and retrieve court records.

"Everything is on the table," he said.

The state is facing a $16.7 billion shortfall, and the budget is set to be adopted on June 15.

Gov. Jerry Brown is cutting many programs and services throughout  the state including $544 million in funding to the judicial branch for fiscal year 2012-2013.

Thursday, a special session was called by Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, chair of the Judicial Council in Sacramento after the governor announced the $544 million cut for the judicial branch in fiscal year 2012-2013.

On Friday, Cantil-Sakauye appointed a 10-member ad hoc group of judicial branch leaders who will lead budget negotiations on the Governor's proposals.

Ana Matasantos, the director of the state Department of Finance, was questioned Thursday about the governor's new proposals for drastic reductions in the judicial branch budget, according to state officials.

Cantil-Sakauye said Thursday that the courts have been so successful in protecting essential services that the governor believes that trial courts haven't been harmed from the tens of millions taken from the judicial branch.

Matosantos maintains that the trial courts have "substantial reserves" and believe that the local reserve system should be modified. 

This means sweeping changes in the way the courts are funded, officials state.

This modification should include setting up a reserve of 3 percent  allocated by the Judicial Council bases on uniform criteria.

Planet said the nuts and bolts of how this reserve fund will work is still in limbo.

Of the $544 million proposed reduction in the May budget revise, $300 million would come from the trial court reserves. Another $240 million would come from delays in court construction, and $4 million in increased retirement contributions from state court employees, according to Matosantos.

Planet said the blows of the deep cuts have been felt in the Ventura and other courthouses.

More recently, as of June 25 all the misdemeanor and family courts at the Simi Valley courthouse will officially be located in Ventura, Planet said.

All but one family court have moved to Ventura from Simi Valley, said Planet.

There are discussions underway on whether to close down the remaining courts that hear traffic, landlord-tenant and small claims disputes, according to Planet.

There have been many staff and other reductions in Ventura County.

Ventura has lost 70 courthouse positions in the last three years, and records and case filing windows now close at 3 p.m., Planet said.  In addition, there is a work-furlough program that mandates that many Ventura court workers, including management,  take 13, 15 or 18 unpaid days off each year.

Management positions are mandated days to take the most days off. There is the week-long Christmas closure of Ventura's courts, Planet noted.

Ventura County courts have numerous functions and expenses, including collections, interpreting services, jury services, court reporters, judicial assistants, court records and criminal, civil and juvenile cases.

One of the hardest hit courthouses in the state budget crisis is the Los Angeles County Superior Court. 

 In April, Los Angeles Court officials announced that by the end of June they would reduce its staff by nearly 350 workers, close 56 courtroom, reduce the use of court reporters and end the Informal Juvenile Traffic Courts.he courtroom being impacted include 24 civil, 24 criminal, three family, a probate and four juvenile courts.

As of May 15, Los Angeles Superior Court will no longer provide court reporters for civil trials.

The Court Reporter
Raul Hernandez has spent years writing stories about the drama that unfolds in the courtroom. Here he answers common questions, share some insights on the judicial system and passes along some of the little things that make the Ventura County courts an interesting place to be. You can contact him at rhernandez@vcstar.com.