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Newark's Assemblymember Wants More Funding For Courts

Governor Jerry Brown's new 2014-15 budget would provide $3.27 billion for California courts.

Assembly Judiciary Chairman Bob Wieckowski attended the news conference in Sacramento.  Photo credit: Office of Bob Wieckowski
Assembly Judiciary Chairman Bob Wieckowski attended the news conference in Sacramento. Photo credit: Office of Bob Wieckowski
by Bay City News

California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye unveiled a three-year budget plan for the state's courts on Tuesday that claims the financially pressed system needs at least $161 million more than proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown for next year "just to tread water." The chief justice, who heads the California court system as well as its highest court, announced the plan at a news conference in Sacramento. Details were provided in a "Three-Year Blueprint for a Fully Functioning Court Judicial Branch" released by her office in San Francisco.

Brown's budget proposal for the 2014-15 fiscal year would provide $3.27 billion for California courts, including $105 million more than last year. But the chief justice's blueprint said the courts would require a total of $266 million more than last year, or $161 million more than proposed by Brown, just to maintain current court service levels, which have already been cut back over the past several years.

The reason is that the courts have now spent down about $200 million in reserves they were required to draw on last year and reserves will be unavailable in the coming year, the document said. The blueprint said that providing adequate service, as opposed to maintaining current levels, would take $612 million more next year.

In a statement last week after Brown released his proposal, Cantil-Sakauye said, "I appreciate the Governor's fiscal prudence as well as his recognition of the need for reinvestment in the judicial branch," but said the branch has "critical unmet needs." "Californians rely on a fully functioning court system to protect their constitutional rights, secure protective orders, resolve child custody issues, and settle business disputes," the chief justice said. California's court system is the largest in the nation, with more than 2,000 judicial officers in 58 county superior courts, six regional appeals courts and the state Supreme Court.

The blueprint notes that previous budget cuts have forced the closure of 51 courthouses and 205 courtrooms around the state and resulted in reduced public service hours in 30 courts.

Assembly Judiciary Chairman Bob Wieckowski (D-Newark), who attended the Sacramento news conference, said in a statement that he shares the chief justice's concerns about the need for adequate funding. "Low-income Californians have been especially hit hard because they are the most vulnerable to the loss of their legal rights and the burden of court budget cuts has fallen most heavily on services disproportionately used by low-income parties," the assemblyman said.
AL January 16, 2014 at 02:49 PM
Really? Judges work from 9:30(if we are lucky they show up at that time) till about 3:30. Always off on Fridays. These Judges are on salary. Do we really want them to only work part time? Its time to earn those salary dollars. They all know the consequences going into the job. NO MORE MONEY FOR THE COURTS till they all earn it. Effects all of us, not just the poor, unless you have the big bucks, you are assure you will be SOL.
Jack Lyness January 16, 2014 at 06:29 PM
Gee, Al, I think you may be forgetting that for every judge working on any given day, there are maybe 12 support personnel (I'm guessing) who have to get things ready for him or her, stand by while he works, then stay afterward to clean up the mess and get ready for the next day - clerks, bailiffs, other security and clerical officers in the background, not to mention maintenance personnel, robe cleaners, etc. If the judge held court for 8 hours, we'd have to pay all those others for 12 or more. Then again, there really must be things judges are required to do do when not visibly on the bench. There is certainly some research involved, particularly at higher levels, even if it's only reading the synopses of research done by clerks. Somehow I suspect you may also think teachers don't work an 8-hour day either, right? Then therre's probably no hope for you. If we want to pay less for in-court judiciary, we should find a way to place more incentives for people to settle issues out of court. That would be worthwhile. (And cutting out need for attorneys would be an admirable goal, as well.)
AL January 17, 2014 at 09:50 AM
Jack, you are comparing teacher wages and long hours to a judges salary! Really. Have you ever seen a break down of expenses for the court rooms. As far as we are concern, judges should work a 80 hour week. Well I do concur with you in giving the hourly employees more $, pennies for hourly employees and $ for judges. You are correct about after hours work, I am sure they do review some court cases during after hours. The sad scenario about this increase budget for the courts, most of the assembly people are attorneys. This should have no issue passing. Scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. Good old boy buddy system.

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