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Crime & Justice

LA County courts dealt 'crippling blow,' laying off 350 employees as part of a $30 million cut

Los Angeles Superior Court
Los Angeles Superior Court
Jordon Cooper/Flickr (Creative Commons-licensed)

The Los Angeles County court system is planning to lay off around 350 employees at the end of June, Courthouse News Service reports, as well as restructuring more than 50 courtrooms, which is expected to save $30 million. This comes as a result of deep state funding cuts.

Laying out the reasoning for the cuts, a memo to court staff titled "Los Angeles Superior Court Budget Plan" explains that the budget crisis that began in fiscal year 2008-09 continues "with little improvement," and that California courts have faced permanent budget reductions that total $652 million. Courts face another $125 million "trigger cut" in the coming fiscal year if Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed tax initiative fails to pass in November.

"The impending layoffs are the next step in the process of achieving this downsizing gradually, rather than catastrophically," Presiding Judge Lee Smalley Edmon and Executive Officer John A. Clarke wrote in the memo. "There is no escaping the fact that this next round of cuts will be the most significant event to happen in our court ... Never before has a budget crisis dealt so crippling a blow to our court."

The court has already reduced staff by 500, which is about 10 percent of the total court staff, through layoffs and attrition.

The $30 million cut includes $6.8 million from restructuring (including lay offing off over 50 judicial assistants and 20 courtroom assistants), $10.2 million from reduced use of court reporters including eliminating over 60 court reporter positions, $4.8 million from cuts to juvenile courts and $8.2 million from laying off over 100 court staff.

L.A. County courts need to reduce annual spending by $118 million from what they were before the current economic crisis, according to the memo, due to the cuts and cost increases. They've already reduced annual spending by $70 million, but that leaves $48 million to go. They also will have to spend $28 million from local reserves.

The memo notes that the Court would have already had to cut over 1,000 positions if not for other adjustments that have already been made, including reducing court operating costs, use of reserve funding and a one-time redirection of state funds. A previous plan included 650 layoffs in October 2012, but the earlier, smaller number of cuts replaces that one.

On a state level, the plan to make up for court cuts includes $350 million by reducing each court's spending, $100 million from requesting the Legislature to restore that funding, $50 million in new fees, $50 million redirection from other state programs and $100 million from locally held reserves.