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Court garage sale, case delays and long lines are result of California cost cuts

Posted May 13, 2014 9:03 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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California has cut so much money from the courts budget that some people may be discouraged from using the system, according to the state’s chief justice.

Annual case filings in the state have dropped by about 2.5 million in the last few years, says California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

“I don't believe we are becoming a more law-abiding, rule-following society," she said. "But we have closed more than 50 courthouses and eliminated 3,900 full-time positions. So are people finally getting the message they shouldn't bother to come to court?"

One extreme embarrassment, according to Cantil-Sakauye, was when the Kings County Superior Court held a garage sale to raise money.

The cutbacks have led to court closings, staff shortages and growing case delays, the story says. “Unlike in federal court, it is impossible to file all cases electronically in most state courts, and fights regularly erupt in snaking lines at clerks' offices,” according to the newspaper. “Telephone systems are antiquated, and there are not enough people to answer the calls. Court reporters who provide transcripts of hearings have been eliminated for civil cases in many counties, making it more difficult for the losing party to appeal.”

In Contra Costa County, court clerks report complaints from people who can’t remarry because divorce paperwork hasn’t been processed for judges’ signatures.

Cantil-Sakauye tells the Los Angeles Times that the courts need an additional $266 million in the coming fiscal year "just to tread water" and an extra $612 million to be fully functional.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: "Cash-strapped court charges $1 per page for access to online civil case records"

Updated at 1:24 p.m. to link to subsequent ABAJournal.com post.

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