Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Working Group and Appellate Leaders Wrestle with Judicial Branch Cuts to Maintain Services to the Public

Judicial Council Meets July 22 to Consider Proposals

SAN FRANCISCO—The Trial Court Budget Working Group and the Appellate Court Leadership today recommended an 8.8 percent cut in funding for California’s 58 trial courts to deal with a $350 million reduction for the judicial branch that was approved by the state Legislature and the Governor.

In a joint meeting, the two groups also recommended a one-year suspension in the deployment of the California Court Case Management System (CCMS), a 9.7 percent cut in funding for the California Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal, and a 12 percent reduction in funding for the Judicial Council and its staff arm, the Administrative Office of the Courts. There would also be a 15.2 percent across-the-board reduction for all judicial branch entities in the next fiscal year of 2012-2013.

The recommendations came after seven hours of lively debate and several split votes as the working group and appellate leaders struggled with the difficult challenge of balancing the judicial branch budget while maintaining the highest level of service to the citizens that use the courts on a daily basis. A proposal to put CCMS on hold for six months was narrowly rejected by a vote of 11-13 while a proposal to suspension the program for a full year was adopted by a 15-10 vote.

The 34-member working group is composed primarily of presiding judges and executive officers from throughout the state while the appellate leadership is composed of the leaders of the state’s appellate courts.

The recommendations will be considered by the Judicial Council at its special July 22 meeting in San Francisco. The council can accept, modify or reject the recommendations, which will be posted on the California Courts website at www.courts.ca.gov/policyadmin-jc.htm

The council is also scheduled to allocate the available funding to the trial courts which will then decide how to implement the reduction in funding.

Over the last four years, the state has reduced funding for the judicial branch by $647 million. Judicial branch leaders, led by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, worked unsuccessfully to avoid the $350 million budget cut, warning that it could mean fewer services for the public, individual court closures or reductions in operating hours and the possibility of more furloughs and layoffs for court employees.

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The Judicial Council is the policymaking body of the California courts, the largest court system in the nation. Under the leadership of the Chief Justice and in accordance with the California Constitution, the council is responsible for ensuring the consistent, independent, impartial, and accessible administration of justice. The Administrative Office of the Courts carries out the official actions of the council and promotes leadership and excellence in court administration.

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