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L.A. County judges share pain by taking a voluntary wage cut

Most opt to donate a day's pay, or $688, each month in solidarity with court employees who are subject to mandatory furloughs. The action is expected to save $3 million a year.

August 18, 2009|Victoria Kim

Most judges in Los Angeles County have opted to give up a day's pay to help fill a budget shortfall that has led to monthly court closures and furloughs, according to a report submitted Monday.

While other Superior Court employees were subject to mandatory furloughs beginning last month, judges were spared because of a constitutional provision that says judicial officers' salaries cannot be reduced during their term. Instead, the court set up a fund so that judges could donate a day's pay every month to help sustain court operations. Some court employees who had been forced to take furloughs urged judges to also take part in the cuts, which affect more than 5,000 employees.

Of the court's judges, 423 are participating in the voluntary pay cuts. According to court officials, L.A. County Superior Court had 430 judges as of mid-July.

Most of them opted to donate the equivalent of a day's pay, $688 for a Superior Court judge, according to a report for the Administrative Office of the Courts. A handful chose to give smaller amounts, ranging from $50 -- in the case of one juvenile court judge in Pomona -- to $500.

Of the court's commissioners, 90 are taking pay cuts -- most of them giving back a day's pay, or $585.

The move is expected to save the courts more than $3 million a year, one step toward filling the shortfall, now projected at $79 million.

"No one likes to give up a part of their salary, but on the other hand, this is a pretty good use of it," said Presiding Judge Charles "Tim" McCoy, who oversees the courts in L.A. County. McCoy, whose salary is slightly higher than other judges', will be foregoing $716 each month.

McCoy warned that without drastic measures, he may be forced to permanently shut down courtrooms or entire courthouses later this year.

Courthouses around Los Angeles County will once again be closed Wednesday in the second of 12 planned furlough days.

Beginning in September, courthouses across California are expected to close their doors on the third Wednesday of each month.

Superior Court Judge Michael Vicencia said he had been "sitting on pins and needles," wondering how many judges would participate in the cuts.

"I'm hoping to see judges statewide doing the same thing and standing in solidarity with the employees," he said.

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victoria.kim@latimes.com

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