SAN FRANCISCO — A policymaking body for California's courts decided unanimously Wednesday to close all courthouses on the third Wednesday of every month in response to budget cuts.
The closures, approved by the California Judicial Council, will begin in September and continue through June. They are expected to save $85.4 million. In addition, judges will be asked to take voluntary furloughs one day a month, resulting in a 4.62% pay cut.
Chief Justice Ronald M. George, who heads the council, said he regretted the closures but added they would be "the least of the various evils," such as massive layoffs of experienced court employees. He said he will sign up for a monthly furlough and believes that most, if not all, of the state's judges would do so as well.
"The basic mission statement of the Judicial Council is increasing and improving access to justice, and here we are closing courts," George said after the meeting.
He said the closures would result in delays in trials and more crowding in jails. Inmates who might have been released on the third Wednesday of the month will have to wait until the next day, he said.
Some Superior Courts, including those in Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties, have already trimmed operations. It will be up to each court to decide how to handle furloughs, George said.
The closures will be treated as a holiday, and litigants will receive an extra day toward meeting legal deadlines.