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California chief justice blasts budget cuts to courts

Judge Tani Cantil-Sakauye, left, talks about her nomination as the next Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger listens during a ceremony at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday, July 22, 2010.
Judge Tani Cantil-Sakauye, left, talks about her nomination as the next Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger listens during a ceremony at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday, July 22, 2010.
AP Photo/Steve Yeater

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California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye on Friday railed against budget cuts to the state’s court system. She said the $350 million hit comes on top of previous budget cuts.

“Since 2009, [there's been] a 30 percent cut to the baseline budget. That means on the ground to practitioners fewer resources, closed courts, furloughs," Cantil-Sakauye told a meeting of Town Hall Los Angeles at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

The said the cuts in human terms "means far more."

"In human terms, these kinds of cuts to the judicial branch means that the most needy will go without a forum to swiftly resolve problems and grievances and violated rights,” Cantil-Sakauye said.

The chief justice said civil courts that handle matters such as business disputes, home foreclosure issues and employment discrimination will face significant delays.

She also said Riverside County already plans to close some of its more rural courthouses. San Francisco plans to lay off hundreds of court employees.

Cantil-Sakauye said she understands the state faces a fiscal crisis, and that crucial services like funding for the blind and disabled are being cut. Without calling for the extension of tax increases, she hinted the state needs new revenue.

The state's top judicial officer also made the point of saying that the importance of the judicial branch is lost on California’s legislators.

“When I go to the legislature, which turns over one-third every year, and I speak to them about the importance of the branch, they aren’t really sold on the idea," she said. "Ya know a lot of legislators are not lawyers anymore, so they don’t typically truly embrace what the branch means and what the works of a lawyer does for the public.”

She said the state judicial council is currently meeting to figure out how to deliver justice with vastly diminishing resources in the hundreds of courthouses across the state.