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