An empty Superior Court of California courthouse is seen on January 30, 2005 in Santa Maria, California.
In response to Governor Jerry Brown’s announced cuts of $544 million in state court funding in the next fiscal year, California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said such austerities “are both devastating and disheartening” and explained that they will seriously compromise the state’s “ability to provide equal access to justice.”
The judicial branch cuts are among $4.1 billion in new budget reductions revealed last week to balance the $91 billion state budget for the coming fiscal year beginning July 1. The budget changes will require trial courts to use $300 million of reserve funds and delay $240 million worth of courthouse construction and renovation, according to Brown.
The state will also require court employees to contribute more to pension funds, which will reportedly save the state $4 million. Both officials and attorneys are concerned about how much the cutbacks will impinge upon the judicial system’s ability to function properly.
How badly funded are courts in California now? How well will the judicial infrastructure be able to sustain more funding cuts? Is the state of California in a financial crisis that it cannot recover from?
Jessica Levinson, professor, Loyola Law School
Judge Margaret Henry, supervising judge, dependency, Los Angeles Juvenile Court;
Justice Douglas Miller, associate justice, California State Court of Appeal; member of the state judicial council (the policy making body of the state court)