CBJ - July 2012 #04. Judicial grapples with budget cuts, AOC critics.


California Bar Journal


CBJ - July 2012 #04.

Judicial grapples with budget cuts, AOC critics

The California LawyerJuly 2012Judicial grapples with budget cuts, AOC criticsOver protests from the legal community, the governor signed a 2012-13 spending plan in June that slashes $544 million from the judicial branch budget.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye opposed the cuts, but said she appreciated the hard choices faced by the governor and the legislature dealing with a statewide decline in revenues. The court system has experienced four straight years of revenue declines that have already led to layoffs, shortened hours and darkened courtrooms.

"The judicial branch is comprised of many incredibly talented, innovative, and thoughtful leaders dedicated to the rule of law and justice for all," she said in a statement. "I am confident that we will make it through these difficult times and emerge, in the end, a stronger branch."

The cuts were taken mainly from court construction funds and local trial court reserves.

In May, Gov. Jerry Brown had proposed eliminating trial court reserve funds next year, but the final budget he signed June 27 gave the trial courts an extra year to plan. A new one-percent cap on reserves will take effect with the 2014-15 budget.

The budget also blocks the Judicial Council from spending any money on the Court Case Management System without legislative approval. The council in March abandoned work on the statewide computer network.

A volunteer group of lawyers calling itself the Open Courts Coalition lobbied to try to protect the branch from further cuts, warning that the poorest and most vulnerable members of society are most affected. The coalition organized rallies in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento.

"I thank the judicial branch leaders and the lawyer groups who advocated tirelessly and collaboratively for judicial branch resources," the chief said after the budget deal was done. The Judicial Council will meet July 27 to figure out how to deal with the additional cuts.

The council, still grappling with the impact of the cuts, also accepted a harsh critique in June of its staff at the Administrative Office of the Courts by a committee...

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