One day after running my Perspective column, entitled "Legislature Using Purse Strings to Bind Judiciary," the Daily Journal has published a story today that chronicles the massive cuts to the Los Angeles County Superior Court system. Rebecca U. Cho & Catherine Ho, Hundreds Of L.A. Court Workers to Be Laid Off Today (March 16, 2010) www.dailyjournal.com [subscription required].
329 employees are scheduled to receive pink slips today. In addition, it is reported that 12 courtrooms will close, but the specifics have not been announced. The Los Angeles Superior Court currently plan to lay off an additional 500 employees in September. Los Angeles court officials are reportedly "facing a $79 million budget deficit in the current fiscal year, which is expected to grow to $120 million next year." Judge Charles McCoy is reported to have asked the Judicial Council for permission to use court construction funds for court operations.
In an article by the Los Angeles Times, Presiding Judge McCoy's missing to communicate the court funding crisis was described:
Los Angeles County Presiding Judge Charles "Tim" McCoy's message is loud and clear: His court system, the largest trial court in the nation, is facing deep fiscal trouble in the years ahead due to drastic cuts in state government funding.
Victoria Kim, L.A. County's top judge faces steep opposition to fund diversion proposal (February 16, 2010). In that article, the uphill battle in front of Judge McCoy is spelled out. According to Ann O'Malley. O'Malley, who chairs the state's Trial Court Presiding Judges Advisory Committee, 53 presiding judges of the state's 58 trial courts have told her they oppose Judge McCoy's proposed use of the construction fund to cover operating expenses.
If it is even necessary to consider layoffs of hundreds of employees or utilizing a court construction fund backed by bonds, not budget appropriations, to support basic operations, something is seriously awry in California's budgeting process. Whether or not you agree with Judge McCoy's specific predictions and approach to the problem, there is no disputing that a problem of colossal magnitude now exists. Pretty soon we won't need to debate tort reform or amendments to California's class action procedures; nobody will be able to have a civil case heard by a judge before the parties and counsel are all dead of old age.
The Press Release from the Los Angeles Superior Court is now available at the Los Angeles Superior Court website.