It's been slowly happening for years, but after a $350 million dollar drop in funding, California court budget cuts have finally made an incredible dent, causing wait times to soar and delaying cases by months.
In San Francisco, the city will be closing 25 courtrooms, reducing hours, and laying off 175 employees this fall, which presiding Judge Katherine Feinstein told the New York Times is expected to elongate divorce proceedings to about 18 months.
Lines are also likely to soar, perhaps overtaking Sacramento's family courts, where people often wait for five hours.
Whether or not these delays meet the definition of "crippled" is irrelevant, as there is no question that the California court budget cuts are changing client expectations and the way attorneys must practice law.
The cuts mean that clients embroiled in contentious disputes can't move on with their lives, putting them in a perpetual state of limbo and turmoil.
While attorneys have always addressed possible delays and wait times, they are going to become a larger part of how we advise clients about their options.
And whether or not we take a case.
Though it may require a bit of maneuvering and a direct response to your client's emotional state, perhaps it is time to reevaluate the use of alternative dispute solutions and refocus efforts on mediation, negotiation, and settlement.
Not only can these options better serve a client facing an 18 month wait, but they would help unclog the system and lessen the impact of the California court budget cuts.
- California Courts Face Cash Crunch (Wall street Journal)
- Calif. Courtrooms Closing on Budget Cuts: Will Yours Close Next? (FindLaw's Strategist)
- California Budget Cuts Scare Courts, Could Result in More Layoffs (FindLaw's California Case Law)