California Courts Are Adjourned to Save Money, but at What Cost to Justice?
Are you reading this at work? If so, odds are you don't work for the California state courts, the nation's largest court system.
Except for a few workers who are being kept on for emergency situations, the California state courts were closed today for the first of ten furlough days imposed in order to make up for cuts in the court system's budget.
The closures will occur on the third Wednesday of every month, and are
expected to save around $90 million. Much of that money is coming from
the wages and salaries of courthouse workers, many of whom are
understandably upset. A protest is planned for today in front of the San Francisco Administrative Office of the Courts.
furlough doesn't apply to California's roughly 1,700 judges, but most
of them have agreed to take a voluntary pay cut to reflect the furlough
The furlough is expected to cause disruptions for
litigants, witnesses and jurors and generally increase the backlog of
cases working their way through the system. Several commentators have
also noted that the furlough days may cause additional delays beyond
just the lost Wednesday if attorneys have to re-subpoena witnesses or
expert witnesses become unavailable because of scheduling conflicts.
council that voted for the furloughs seems to have done so reluctantly,
and some of its members are the first to admit that the situation is
less than optimal."This is such an extraordinary undertaking, and
it's unprecedented, but it doesn't feel good," said San Francisco Superior Court Judge Mary Wiss, as quoted by KCBS. "It leaves
you with something in the pit of your stomach."
Chief Justice Ronald George of the California Supreme Court also regrets the closure
, but says it's just "one more symptom of things breaking down in California."