View Mobile Site

Funding plan would mean cuts to NorCal courts

Text Size: Small Large Medium
POSTED April 25, 2013 9:57 p.m.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The state Judicial Council is weighing a new formula for distributing more than $1 billion in state funding for California's 58 trial courts that would take money from some court systems and give it to rural and fast-growing counties such as Riverside and San Bernardino.

Santa Clara County would be the biggest loser in the San Francisco Bay Area, absorbing more than $10 million in cuts in the next five years, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

Alameda County would face a loss of more than $6 million over the same timeframe, after already enduring layoffs and reduced public hours at its courthouses.

Gov. Jerry Brown's current budget already contains $261 million in statewide cuts to the judiciary, which could mean additional frustration for the public seeking to access Bay Area courthouses for divorce and child custody cases, for filing court records and for resolving civil disputes between businesses.

"It's hard to swallow," said C. Don Clay, Alameda County's presiding judge.

With the exception of Monterey, all of the region's courts would lose money.

The council, which serves as the judiciary's policymaking body, is set to consider the reforms Friday, and all indications are that the new funding approach will go ahead.

Judges in San Bernardino County say the overdue money would offer a life raft for residents who now have to drive hours for any legal business after far-flung courthouses were closed to save money.

The county would stand to benefit from a new windfall of more than $13 million, in addition to its current $61.3 million by 2017.

"It's the right prescription," said Marsha Slough, San Bernardino's presiding judge.

The proposal was crafted by a committee of judges and court officials in response to a complaint from the Brown administration about the formula used to allocate the judiciary's budget.

Even so, the shift will only serve as a stopgap if the governor can't be persuaded to restore some of the funds lost in recent years, said Sacramento Superior Court Judge Laurie Earl, who co-chaired the committee.

"If we reach the end of the five years and don't have any new money, yeah, we're in trouble," she said. "The reality is that we have to do something immediately."



Commenting is not available.

Commenting not available.

Please wait ...