State's Judicial Council puts new courthouses on ice
Paying heed to cuts and shifts proposed in Gov. Jerry Brown's state budget, California's Judicial Council has put construction on courthouses in four counties on hold, including Los Angeles.
The council's vote Thursday halts almost all activity on those projects pending completion of the state budget for 2013-14, meaning delays even if lawmakers come up with money to go ahead. The projects are in Sacramento, Nevada, Los Angeles and Fresno counties. The council is allowing the Sacramento project to continue with any needed land purchases.
Brown's budget proposal relies on using courthouse construction money to pay for financing of one in particular, a courthouse in Long Beach named after former Gov. George Deukmejian. Brown proposes using an additional $200 million in construction money for general operation expenses -- a shift that would bring diversions from the fund to more than $2 billion.
It is a one-time fix for court operations, and Brown warns that spending cuts are needed for the years after that.
Justice Brad Hill, chairman of the Judicial Council's construction working group, said court officers are "scouring every opportunity" to free up funding for construction.
"We have watched as more than a billion dollars has been taken from the construction program," he said. "We don't know what to plan for, or what lies around the corner."
Hill sits as an appellate court judge in the Fifth District.
The council has also recommended dropping a proposal to create 50 new judgeships, in light of the state's failure yet to fund the creation of the previous set of 50 judgeships.
--Paige St. John in Sacramento