Judicial council votes to continue monthly court closures

State courts to stay closed 3rd Wednesdays of month at least through June

Members of the state Judicial Council have voted to continue the budget-tightening measure of monthly court closures, saying there were no better options.

The council of judges, attorneys and legislators, which enacts policy for the California courts, in September initiated court closures throughout the state on the third Wednesday of the month as a response to California's economic crisis.

Despite pleas from court employees who testified about the hardships the closures represent, the council approved continuing them at least until June. The council is expected to revisit possible further closures in the coming months.

The Administrative Office of the Courts estimates the 10 closure days between September and June will save the courts $63.3 million.

California Chief Justice Ronald George, who chairs the council, said the savings between February and June -- estimated to be about $30 million -- "outweighs the burdens, given the terrible exigencies we're faced with."

The council noted in its decision that it was "a top priority" to secure enough funding from the state to avoid closures in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The California courts were faced with a $414 million reduction to its $3.5 billion budget last year, according to Ronald Overholt, chief deputy director of the AOC.

"There was no silver bullet to be shot, to deal with cuts of that magnitude," Overholt said.

Though the AOC recommended continuing the closures through June, Overholt said the AOC did not recommend court closures as an ongoing measure to fight the budget problems.

The AOC acknowledged courts have reported several difficulties because of the closures, including case backlogs, delays and long lines outside courthouses.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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Like this comment
Posted by bob123
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2010 at 8:12 am

While I disagree with the method I understand the JC needs to find ways to reduce costs. As a litigator--yes I admit I am a lawyer-- I know that this will slow the judical grind even more as there is no way to make up for a day lost in the system-- no clerks/judges/bailiffs will not work harder or faster-nor should they. The cases will just have to proceed a bit slower to conclusion--a side benefit may be more mediations for private mediators as an alternative in civil/family law matters.
The good thing is the courts can not decide to be open on Sat and pay employees overtime for coming in with the net result being a loss of the savings generated by being closed in the first place--i.e. DMV etc!!

Like this comment
Posted by Sandy
a resident of Sycamore Heights
on Jan 26, 2010 at 11:21 am

This only benefits the lawyers who already charge way more than their value is worth! The longer the backlog the more they can and will bill you!

Like this comment
Posted by sad daysfor CA
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jan 26, 2010 at 5:44 pm

The court closure days are more of the same in that our legislators cannot come to agmt on how to make rational decisions about what should be funded vs. cut. Sadly the courts which offer (or attempt to) to keep the private sector and criminal justice system moving so we can get remedies to disputes, and keep dangerous people off the streets, etc, are going to be slowed down even further.

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