California government has cut and must keep cutting, even though at this point all cuts are substantive and they hurt. But there are some things that need to be protected when everything else is taking a hit. Courts have taken as much slashing as they can bear, and then some.
After imposing some $350 million in cuts in the current budget year, Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed leaving the courts alone in the coming year — unless, of course, expected revenues fail to materialize. In that case, an automatic "trigger" would be pulled and courts would be in the sights.
But these trigger cuts are unaffordable. Justice is not a commodity that Californians can learn to do without for several years as the economy sorts itself out. If the money doesn't come in this year — if voters reject a temporary tax increase, if Facebook doesn't go public and the capital gains don't roll in, if earnings and revenues don't recover to the degree Brown's finance experts predict — there must in fact be further cuts. But not to courts.
Police, criminal laws and prisons are pointless without courts for adjudication and sentencing. Regulating or deregulating business is pointless if there are insufficient courtrooms to adjudicate business disputes, consumer complaints and regulatory matters. Police cannot protect endangered spouses or children without domestic violence protection orders, and those must come from courts.