California Courts Lay Off Hundreds, Close Courts, and Even Hold Garage Sales To Deal With Budget Cut

220px-Tag_Sale_Sign260px-Bulloch_county_courthouse_statesboro_georgia_2005We have previously discussed the lack of priority in this country as Congress has spent trillions on wars and corruption in Iraq and Afghanistan while our most basic state and federal public programs and services are cut. Indeed, we spend billions on increasingly hostile countries like Pakistan or affluent countries like Israel while our educational system and infrastructure collapses. There is no greater example of that lack of priority than the decline of our court systems which are woefully underfunded and facing a growing crisis in dealing with civil and criminal cases. I often speak to judges and they all complain that they are overwhelmed and unable to meet the most basic demands of the legal system. In California, one court had to resort of a garage sale while another is imposing a $1 a page charge for people to get copies of needed court records. Our legal system is one of the most basic governmental functions — the very definition of a nation committed to the rule of law. However, California alone shows how dire the situation has become.

California has closed more than 50 courthouses and eliminated 3,900 full-time positions. The court estimates that it is short $266 million for minimal operations and $612 million to be fully functional. It also says that it would need $1.2 billion over three years to return services from past cuts.

The wait times for hearings is growing and the state is beginning to resemble India where people simply have little hope of a ruling on disputes — resulting in their avoidance of the courts or abandonment of cases. The Kings County Superior Court was faced with staff cuts and inadequate budgets and had to hold an actual garage sale to raise money.

The state is about to announce a new round of court closings to save money — increasing the barrier for judicial review and case resolution. Lines now stretch out the door and courts report increasing tension and even violence as people lose their tempers in waiting for hours.

In the meantime, Alameda County courts are now going to charge $1 per page to simply download documents — creating a financial barrier for many seeking to address legal issues. This is consistent with the increased use of toll roads and taxes for highways. What was once viewed as a basic function of the government (supported by general taxes) is now being treated as a privilege with a surcharge.

The federal system charges for PACER documents online, which I have always found objectionable as a court access issue, but they only charge 10 cents a page. With a cap of $3. The Alameda courts would cap it at $40.

I remain mystified by the short-sightedness of our budget decisions. Cutting educational, judicial, and other basic programs have collateral impacts and displaced costs that are simply ignored. The long-term impacts are particularly worrisome as we produce less competitive students for the new job market, reduce the availability of the courts for conflict resolution, and make add delays in transportation and other basic services. We are de-evolving as country as we spend wildly on foreign wars and aid while reducing our own level of public support and investment.

Source: LA Times

85 thoughts on “California Courts Lay Off Hundreds, Close Courts, and Even Hold Garage Sales To Deal With Budget Cut”

  1. There’s a drought in SoCal. There have been droughts and floods for as long as this planet has existed. All indications are an El Nino is brewing. That means next winter there will be floods and mudslides. The problems are caused by the incredible development of housing in SoCal over the past 50 years. Floods, droughts, are just part of natures cycles. The development in SoCal was mismanaged or not even managed.

    1. Nick – the drought makes the ground cover tinder dry, but if arson is the cause, then it is NOT global warming or the DROUGHT that is causing the fires.

  2. Hey John, are you the same John who says Obama isn’t a real citizen? Was that you who had that big long debate with another commenter some time back? I realize John is a common name so maybe it wasn’t you.

  3. Did I say a word about earthquakes John? How normal is it to have so many fires this early in the season? Seriously!

  4. “Global warming at its deadliest.” Seriously? Southern California has earthquakes and fires. Southern California has always had earthquakes and fires. Southern California always will have earthquakes and fires.

    The globe warms and cools. The globe has always warmed and cooled. The globe always will warm and cool.

    The last ice age came and went without any form of contribution by mankind.

    The California Public Utilities Commission well regulates utilities. Electricity utilities know well how to follow regulations issued by the CPUC, including how to generate and distribute electricity efficiently; it is their science, their profession and their business. Only when the inmates takeover the asylum are inane, inefficient and politically correct methods of generation employed by utilities that are compelled to do so by the CPUC, which exists and functions at the pleasure of elected officials (California is a one-party state. Can you guess which one?).

    It appears there is something very fundamental that is out of whack. It starts with the wholly irrational and perverse “one man, one vote” concept. The homeless guy has a vote equal to that of Bill Gates. That dudn’t make any sense!

    The inmates HAVE taken over the asylum.

    Can you say Nancy Pelosi?

    “Global warming at its deadliest.” Seriously!

    1. John – they are reporting that ALL but one of the fires have suspicious starting points.

  5. Ross, did judges have the power to spend tax money infinitely and wantonly in 1789? what was the longest trial when the Constitution was adopted in1789? How much does the taxpayer have to pay to hear that the very guilty O. J. Simpson didn’t do it? How might the O. J. trial have gone in 1789 New England? Give that a shot will ya? I’m thinking something about a tree in a span of about 2 hours. There are no limits on how much American jurisprudence can arbitrarily decide to spend in pursuit of that evasive concept, perfection. We can’t have the swift death penalty in the justice industry because, OMG, wait for it, there might be a mistake, yet the aerospace industry killed six astronauts in the Challenger. Nobody gets out alive, mistakes are made and justice costs way to much.

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