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Letters: Properly funding the judiciary

March 15, 2013

Re "A lament in a history lesson," March 12

California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye could also have given a brief accounting lesson on the effect of imprisoning people who have inadequate legal representation. For every prisoner incarcerated, it costs taxpayers about $50,000 per year.

Illustrating the importance of a properly funded judiciary, Cantil-Sakauye tells the story of Clarence Gideon, the Floridian whose wrongful conviction in 1961 and five years in prison resulted in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Gideon vs. Wainwright. Imprisoning Gideon for five years in California today would cost about $250,000. Surely paying for a quality public defender in the first place would cost less.

As further proof of California's misplaced priorities, look at the state budget. Cantil-Sakauye notes that 1% of the budget goes toward courts. In contrast, California prison spending accounts for 10% of the budget, despite declining crime rates.

Carole Urie-Chickering

Laguna Beach

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