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Rally planned to protest L.A. County court closures

March 14, 2013 |  9:50 am

Hundreds are expected to rally outside the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday to protest broad cuts to the county court system, including the closure of 10 regional courthouses.

The Save Our Courts Coalition -- comprised of groups including SEIU Local 721, ACLU Southern California, People for Community Improvement and others -- has planned an 11 a.m. march and mock trial in the street in front of the courthouse.

“We’re going to do everything we can to stop these closures because, if the judges have their way, we’re the ones who will be left behind," SEIU Local 721 President Bob Schoonover said in a statement. "Our neighbors and family members will be taking five-hour bus rides across the county just to have their day in court. That’s just not fair.”

The Los Angeles Superior Court's plan comes as the system works to close a $56-million to $85-million budget shortfall by the beginning of the fiscal year July 1, said Mary Hearn, a court spokeswoman.

Court officials have said years of budget cuts by the state have left no option but to reduce services, close courtrooms and lay off workers. The L.A. County court system already has laid off hundreds of employees and left more positions unfilled.

On Wednesday, several legal aid organizations filed a lawsuit against the system and the state, saying the court's plan to reduce the number of courts handling landlord disputes "shuts the courthouse doors on many of the county's most vulnerable residents."

In the 21-page filing, the organizations said the reduction in the number of courthouses hearing such cases from 26 to five throughout the county will create difficulties for low-income tenants and people with disabilities fighting eviction.

The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in downtown Los Angeles, seeks to halt the plan and demands a jury trial.

Attorneys with Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Disability Rights Legal Center and Western Center on Law & Poverty filed the suit on behalf of several plaintiffs, including two disabled people facing eviction.

In a letter to Presiding Judge David S. Wesley, who is named in the lawsuit, State Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield (D-Woodland Hills) called the court's plan "simply unacceptable."

“Your proposed plan will impose insurmountable conditions on low-income renters needing to defend themselves in unlawful detainer complaints and undeniably push more working families into the chasm of homeless,” wrote Blumenfield, chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee.

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-- Hailey Branson-Potts

twitter.com/haileybranson

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