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Budget cuts force L.A. County courts to trim staff

April 17, 2012 |  6:46 pm

The sprawling Los Angeles County court system, which has sustained $70 million in budget cuts this fiscal year, will slash another $30 million in the coming months by laying off workers, shuttering courtrooms and axing a juvenile court program, officials said Tuesday.

The cuts comes as California’s judicial budget--pared back in recent years as the state struggled economically--faces the potential loss of tens of millions of dollars next year if a tax measure on the November ballot fails.

The Los Angeles County courts have already laid off hundreds of employees and left more positions unfilled, resulting in longer lines to file paperwork and cases that plod along at a snail’s pace. This fiscal year, the courts shaved $70 million from its budget in part by freezing wages and forcing staff members to take furlough days.

But the courts still need to chop $48 million to plug their budget hole. The measures announced Tuesday will cover $30 million, meaning the court will begin the next fiscal year with a deficit regardless of how much money state lawmakers parcel to the judicial system, said court spokeswoman Mary Hearn.

By the end of June, the courts will have 350 fewer employees and 56 fewer courtrooms, which officials said will likely slow down the resolution of criminal, civil, family court and juvenile delinquency cases. Judges whose courtrooms are shuttered will be reassigned, officials said.

The system’s presiding judge, Lee Smalley Edmon, said in a statement that the cuts would have the effect of “rationing justice."

“The public cannot tolerate any further major service reductions,” she said.


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