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Letters: California courts feel the cuts

May 19, 2012
  • Facing a projected $16-billion shortfall, Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed deeper budget cuts for California.
Facing a projected $16-billion shortfall, Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed… (Los Angeles Times )

Re "Brown's bloody budget," Editorial, May 15

Because of a $16-billion budget deficit, Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing $544 million in cuts to California's court system, which has already lost more than $600 million in funding over the last four years. This round of cuts will mean the judicial branch has had its budget cut by nearly 30% over the last five years, far more than any other branch of government. Trial courts will be asked to absorb the cuts by tapping into reserves and suspending construction projects. Layoffs and furloughs, reduced courthouse hours and outright closures of courts are inevitable.

Reducing court access will interfere with Californians' ability to seek timely justice in important matters such as home foreclosures, child-custody cases and divorces. For those who cannot afford a lawyer, navigating the court system is about to get harder. Programs designed to help them — such as self-help centers, translation services and court reporting services — will be first on the chopping block.

The 38 courthouse construction projects likely to be suspended are badly needed for public safety reasons. In many of the counties where these projects are taking place, the existing courthouses have no facilities to separate prisoners from the public and court staff. In some counties, temporary facilities such as trailers are being used.

The judiciary is one of three branches of our government, constitutionally equal to the executive and legislative branches. People should never have to jump over budgetary hurdles for access to justice.

Wm. T. "Bill" Robinson III, Erlanger, Ky.

Jon B. Streeter, San Francisco

Robinson is president of the American Bar Assn.; Streeter, president of the State Bar of California.

The Times' editorial on the deep cuts the state faces managed to ignore the elephant in the room. There is not a word about generous pension benefits for public employees. The state has more than half a trillion dollars in unfunded pension liabilities.

This $500 billion is more than the annual budgets of many countries. Despite some talk by the governor about doing something about this, nothing at all has been done. The legislators are hiding under their chairs. This is a travesty, and instead of dealing with this, the state wants more taxes even though Californians already have a high tax burden.

Even though I voted for Brown, he will not get my vote for more taxes.

Robert Newman

West Hills

It's wrong to press on with the bullet train while making cuts that jeopardize the lives of the poorest and most helpless. I heard a rumor that, when the governor was asked how these people are to find food, healthcare and shelter, he said, "Let them ride trains."

Ira Spiro

Los Angeles

For years our lawmakers passed balanced budgets and patted themselves on the back for such a wonderful job. In fact, they had moved money around, borrowed wherever they could and just kicked the can down the fiscal road.

I voted for my state representatives to look out for the best interests of their constituents. But what I got was a group of lawmakers worried more about reelection than their fiduciary responsibilities.

Now, here we are $16 billion in the hole. It appears that our legislators served everybody but their constituents, and now we will pay the price.

Ronald Moya

La Verne

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