"We are rationing justice, and it has become more than a fiscal problem. It is, in my view, it is now a civil rights problem. ... We know we are denying the protections of an American democracy."
The rhetoric, justified or not, is flowing hard after Gov. Jerry Brown released a budget plan that, despite a $105 million increase in court funding, will do little to keep our court system from teetering on collapse. (Existing pension and benefit costs will eat up most of the increase.) Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye's rhetorical flourish was accompanied by her own plan, the "A Three-Year Blueprint for a Fully Functioning Judicial Branch."
The Courts' Carnage
Here are a few notes on the effect of the budget crisis, from the Chief Justice's plan:
Without additional funding, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye warned that additional court closures, layoffs, and delays for trials and divorce and custody matters would continue to grow.
How much is enough? Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye estimates that $266 million is needed just to "tread water."
Four Point Plan (With Catchy Names and Bullet Points!)
The four core elements of the Chief Justice's blueprint for fixing the court system include:
Not Going to Happen
You know that old saying about wishing in one hand and defecating in the other?
The Los Angeles Times reports that Gov. Brown's administration is standing firm on its modest funding increase, noting that the state's education system was even more devastated by the budget crisis. Lawmakers in the state Assembly and Senate voiced varying levels of support for the Chief Justice's plan, with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg giving vague agreement on the need for a fully-functioning system and Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) agreeing that the bare minimum $266 million "treading water" amount was appropriate.