Monday, June 30, 2014

Dan Walters: California courts sought stability, found instability

Yeah. I've discussed this before.  Underfunded.  Undermanned.  People are turning to the private sector for judicial assistance.  Which, apparently, is faster.

What seemed like a good idea at the time, however, has become a classic example of how political decisions often carry unintended consequences.

The takeover created a very large state agency that must compete politically with schools, colleges, prisons, health services and myriad other claimants on the state’s always-limited revenues. And the judicial branch has been losing that zero-sum game.

Between 2008 and 2012, court financing was whacked by more than $700 million. Dozens of courtrooms were shuttered due to a lack of funds, even though courts dipped into construction funds, spent down their reserves, furloughed or laid off employees, and closed their doors on certain days of the week.

One local court even staged a garage sale to raise money and keep its judges and employees on the job.

However, as a surge of revenues drives overall state spending to record levels, the court system’s financial woes have continued. They are receiving just a fraction of the new funds that George’s successor, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, says are needed to prevent further cutbacks.

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