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CALIFORNIA JUDICIAL SYSTEM BUDGET CUTS TO DELAY TRIALS

California’s Judicial System has been hit hard by the recent financial crisis. The Courts’ operating budgets have been cut by 30% since 2008 with further cuts inevitable if California voters do not approve additional funding in November. The cuts have caused lower Courts to adopt one or more of the following to cope with significantly reduced budgets:

 

  • Limited hours;
  • Furlough days;
  • Layoffs;
  • Elimination of certain programs such as the Small Claims;
  • Closing of courtrooms.

 

Los Angeles County Superior Court, which is the nation’s largest court system, has recently announced further cuts. By June 30, 2012, Los Angeles County Superior Court will close 56 courtrooms, of which 24 are civil departments. Further, 100 employees will be laid off, bringing the total number of lost jobs to 658 since 2008. Additionally, beginning on May 15, 2012, the Court will eliminate Court Reporters for trials and law and motion hearings. Consequently, litigants will have to retain their own Court Reporters in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

 

The net result of all of these cuts is that civil lawsuits will be significantly delayed. While the California Standards of Judicial Administration section 2.2(f) encourages judges to dispose of 75% of all cases within 12 months and 85% of all cases within 18 months, such goals are no longer realistic. San Francisco County Superior Court, which has also made far reaching cuts, anticipates a five year delay for civil cases to go out for trial. To keep pace with the ever increasing number of new lawsuits, many jurists are requesting that the Legislature pass laws to authorize shorter trials or trials without juries.



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