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California chief justice 'encouraged' by partial courts restoration

June 11, 2013|By Paige St. John
  • Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye.
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles…)

California's chief justice said she was "encouraged" that the budget deal worked out between Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature would end a pattern of funding cuts for courts and restore at least some money lost previously.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said in a prepared statement Tuesday morning the state spending plan hammered out the day before "is an initial step forward" to rebuild "the kind of access to justice the public deserves."

It now falls to the Judicial Council and a newly created Trial Court Budget Advisory Committee to work on how that money is allocated to trial and appellate courts.

Cantil-Sakauye's remarks are a turnaround from her warnings at the beginning of the budget process. In March she declared, "I am afraid California is on the wrong side of history when it comes to its funding of justice .... Our judicial branch budget has been cut greater and deeper than any other court in the United States."

She had sought restoration of $100 million. The compromise with Brown allowed $63 million instead. In addition, a spokesman for the Assembly Budget Committee said the money comes with "accountability language" governing how it is spent.

[Updated 10:22 a.m. PDT, June 11, 2013: Those controls include open meetings of the Judicial Council and a 1% cap on trial court reserves. Court administrators had come under fire for spending more than $500 million to create a statewide court database, then abandoning the troubled project last year amid the deepening budget cuts. Technology in California's judicial system is spotty. Some courts, such as in San Joaquin, continue to provide records to the public on microfiche.]

The state's judicial system budget has been cut by 30% in the last four years, resulting in closure of some courthouse annexes in the state, reduced public service hours and limits on other court-related services.

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paige.stjohn@latimes.com

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