COURT BUDGET CUTS CREATE PROBLEMS FOR THOSE SEEKING JUSTICE
Over the last five budget years, California has seen nearly $1 billion in cumulative budget cuts to the courts of California. The courts are now severely crippled. The San Diego Superior Court is dealing with $33 million in budget cuts enacted by the State Legislature. Those cuts have resulted in the reductions of more than 170 court positions and the closing of 20 courtrooms.
Deep reduction of funding all across the state has resulted in courthouse closures, reduced numbers of courtrooms, drastically cut hours and services, large numbers of lay-offs of staff, long lines and higher fees.
Reduction in court personnel is causing a dramatic shift of caseloads onto already overburdened judges and clerks. Civil departments are sharing calendar clerks, and civil judges are handling unthinkable numbers of cases, often into the high hundreds to over a thousand, without adequate support. Judges and staff are soldiering forward, but things have been really tough for them. Family law and probate courts are also severely impacted.
As of November 5, 2012, the San Diego Superior Court has not been supplying court reporters for civil matters. Parties are responsible for hiring and paying for their own reporters for all proceedings, including trials. If they do not do so, there is no record of the proceedings.
Hearing dates are becoming more difficult to obtain. We are also now seeing delays in processing of paperwork, and on one occasion, the total loss of court-filed papers which were eventually found, with great apologies from the court. The case involved an elderly disabled man who could ill afford a delay in compensation in his matter, which had already settled and was merely waiting approval.
The implications these cuts have on litigants is quite serious. We are working hard to press our matters forward to trial despite the constraints. If you have any questions about the impact of the budget crisis on your pending matter with us, please give us a call.
If you would like to learn more, here are three recent articles from the Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Register, and the San Diego Union Tribune: