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Early Court Hours Bring Criticism for Bad Planning and Bad Policy

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, October 29, 2014

(CN) - As California's economy spiraled down four years ago, the governor began lopping huge chunks of money off the $4 billion court budget. Year after year, he kept cutting until it was left an emaciated version of its former self, at roughly $3 billion.

In January with signs of an economic rebound, California's chief justice stood on her office steps in Sacramento, flanked by legislators and judges, with a crowd of reporters in attendance, to announce a "blueprint" that would restore $1.2 billion to the court budget over three years. The powerful speaker of the state Senate was at her side and endorsed her goal.

The campaign brought reliance from many local courts that were counting on the new money, burning through their reserves as they hoped and waited. Others saw the writing on the governor's wall.

Then in June, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a budget that allocated a modest $160 million increase for the courts, far short of the goals in the blueprint from Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. Within weeks, a group of courts began announcing cuts in public hours starting in November.

They said the budget made them do it.

But locking out the public after two or three o'clock in the afternoon does not save money, a point widely conceded, because the staff continues to work until the end of the day.

It does, however, have a heavy impact on the public, those who must go to the courthouse in the middle of the day and stand in long lines to pay fines, file papers and, as one judge put it, "do their business."

And the public's pain is felt by legislators.

Read the whole story at Courthouse News Service

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Steven R. Pogue says...
Posted Wednesday, October 29, 2014
There are certain functions of government that are at is very core. The courts are absolutely one of the core functions of government. When governments distract themselves with functions far outside their core functions, two things happen: One, they do a terrible job at the other functions, Two, they fail at their core functions. A state that has money for an ill-conceived and wasteful train and [insert your pet boondoggle here] but is unable to operate its courts is reducing itself to a joke.
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