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L.A. County Superior Court to cut 511 positions by summer

March 15, 2013 |  1:32 pm

Photo: Members of Good Jobs LA join the Save Our Courts Coalition in a rally to stop the closure of eight Los Angeles County courts on Thursday. Credit: Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press

The Los Angeles County Superior Court plans to eliminate 511 positions by June in a sweeping cost-cutting effort to close an $85-million budget shortfall by the beginning of the next fiscal year.

“All of them are necessary,” Presiding Judge David S. Wesley said of the positions.

Including those cuts, the court has lost 24% of its employees over the last four years, officials said. Meanwhile, the workload continues to increase.

More than 50 judges and staff members have spent the last five months creating a cost-cutting plan, court officials said. It “involved hundreds of hours” of caseload analysis, study of court facilities and discussions with attorneys and stakeholders, the court said in a statement.

The courts are funded by the state, which has slashed funding in recent years, leading to court closures, higher court fees and longer waits for cases to be heard.

This week, California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye pleaded with lawmakers to restore funding for state courts during the annual State of the Judiciary address. The state, which has the largest court system in the country, "is facing a crisis in civil rights" because of the cuts, she said.

For years, the Los Angeles County court system prided itself on providing full-service "neighborhood courts" across the county, Wesley said. But, he said, the budget cuts mean the system simply does not have the resources to continue to provide the same level of services.

The “only way to maintain access to all case types” is to “consolidate services in fewer locations,” Wesley said in a statement.

In the coming months, the court  plans to completely close eight regional courthouses and to create trial “hubs” for eviction, small claims, personal injury and other cases. The court also will eliminate its alternative dispute center, which provides arbitration, mediation and settlement conference as an option to litigation.

The court also plans to reduce the use of court-employed court reporters.

"This hurts," Wesley said of the cuts. "It's really disheartening."


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Photo: Members of Good Jobs LA join the Save Our Courts Coalition in a rally Thursday to stop the closure of eight Los Angeles County courts. Credit: Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press