California courts to close one day a month amid budget crisis

Kathy Woods Jul. 31, 2009, 12:21pm

Mary Wiss

SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline)-In an effort to do its part to lessen California's $24 billion deficit, the 21-member state Judicial Council has voted unanimously to close California courts every third Wednesday of each month from September through July.

The furloughs extend to the state Supreme Court and every appellant and trial court in the Golden State from September through July. Several trial courts throughout the state had already begun closing its doors prior to the Judicial Council's unprecedented move.

Officials say they expect to save $84 million a year. Without the closing the court system was looking at a $414 million deficit.

Court workers additionally face a 4 percent pay reduction. California law protects judges from pay cuts so any reduction in their pay would have to be voluntary.

President of the California Judges Association San Francisco Superior Court Mary Wiss, a member of the Judicial Council, said the judges' union supports the cuts.

California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron George said he would take a pay cut and urges all judges to do so. George who chairs the Judicial Council said, "It is with the greatest of regret that we have to be at this point."

The council also voted against the $71 million set aside for 50 new judge positions, cut $21.3 million from the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and the agency that handles capital punishment.

They also increased the fees that many litigants have to pay when appearing in court.

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