Politics, government and public life for Southern California

CA Chief Justice says Gov. Brown's budget leaves courts substandard

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California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye says Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed budget doesn't do enough to restore cuts to the court system in recent years.

Governor Jerry Brown's new budget proposes adding $105 million to the court system, an amount that Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said falls far short of restoring deep cuts made to court operations in recent years.

Spending cuts in the past six years have left the public with substandard court services, Cantil-Sakauye told KPCC. She ticked off some 51 closed courthouses,  205 closed courtrooms, reduced operating hours at 30 courthouses and at least 50 vacant judgeships.

"This results is hearings and trials being pushed out into the far future," the chief justice said. "And yet we know that by the time a person finds themselves reluctantly on the steps of a courthouse, their life is in crisis."

Cantil-Sakauye said the courts need at least $266 million just to restore basic functions.  She wants the governor and legislature to spend an additional $1.2 billion over three years to get the judicial branch fully functioning.

Her plan would fill vacant judgeships, improve online systems, and add more foreign language and self-help services.

She has attacked court spending cuts in the past, including for Los Angeles County last year.

Cantil-Sakauye has some Republican backing for the plan. Assemblyman Don Wagner of Irvine, co-chairman of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, said the chief justice visited him about her plan earlier this week.

"There are lots of legitimate needs for the surplus, one of them is clearly the courts," Wagner said. "I would prefer to see it go there than to some new social spending programs." 

Wagner said local courts should be able to decide for themselves how to use any additional money that comes as a result of the chief justice's plan.

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