California Supreme Court Chief Justice denounced cuts to the state judiciary budget as "a blow against justice" earlier this year, but a recent report suggests that that state should have made deeper cuts to the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), the central court bureaucracy that is frequently criticized for bad ideas and irresponsible spending.
The California court system lost $350 million through state budget cuts in the 2011-2012 fiscal year. According to the Judicial Council of California (Judicial Council) the legislature cut an additional $310 million from the State Court Facilities Construction Fund, which will delay some courthouse projects for up to year. Although the judiciary accounts for 2.88 percent of the state budget, the FY 2012 judiciary budget adjustments represent 3.5 percent of the state's budget solution.
Of the $350 million in California budget cuts, trial courts will suffer most with a proposed $319.3 million cut, including a one-time $183.5 million saving from delayed construction, technology, and non-critical projects according to the San Jose Mercury News. Other proposed budget cuts include $2.8 million from the Supreme Court, and $12.4 million from the appeals court. The AOC budget lost $13.4 million.
Even with the budget cuts, an AOC facilities report to the Judicial Council proposes staggering expenditures for a wishlist of trivial projects.
- $5,000 to paint two closets
- $210,500 to pave over a dirt parking lot in San Diego
- $21,500 to replace light bulbs in the parking lot at a Los Angeles courthouse
- 51,999 for new ladders in Sutter
- $51,999 to reseal a parking lot in Amador
- $51,999 for an "ergonomic review" of benches in each of the three courtrooms in Amador
- $51,999 to repair a walkway and broken planters outside the courthouse in Modesto
- $7,000 for landscaping work at the Santa Clara courthouse
- $4,500 to remove dead branches from a dead tree
And this list goes on.
AOC spokesperson Teresa Ruano noted that all of the items on the list are awaiting approval, and the full list is beyond what the AOC will do over the next year with its $30 million budget, reports Courthouse News Service.
If this is how the AOC operates in the wake of California budget cuts, perhaps the state should consider eliminating the Administrative Office of the Courts next year and dedicating its budget to the suffering trial courts.
- Rebellion in the California court system (ABC7)
- California Budget Cuts: $350 Million Gone from Court Budget (FindLaw's California Case Law blog)
- FindLaw's California Case Law blog (FindLaw)
- Administrative Office of the Courts (California Courts)
- Goodwin Liu Sworn into California Supreme Court (FindLaw's California Case Law blog)