The "extraordinary measures" cited by Presiding Judge Lee Edmon in a memo will include 300 job cuts and the closing of 50 courtrooms, according to Courthouse News. That's on top of earlier cuts. "These changes will affect every judicial officer and staff member," wrote Edmon, "as well as the millions of attorneys and litigants who depend upon our courts to deliver justice."
The axe being taken to the Los Angeles court, the biggest in the United States, is part of an overall budget battle in California that has resulted in the slashing of fundamental government operations including schools, transportation and the courts. Democratic Governor Jerry Brown is pushing for a tax increase through a voter initiative in November, a measure generally opposed by the state's Republican legislators. If that initiative fails to pass, a further "trigger cut" of $125 million will be required across California's trial courts. "Solutions are dwindling while reductions continue and uncertainty looms," wrote Edmon. "The trial courts' future remains very risky."
For many trial judges, the cuts represent past policies of the central administrative office coming home to roost. Last summer, for example, the Administrative Office of the Courts budgeted hundreds of millions more for an IT project, called the Court Case Management System, that has already drained a half-billion dollars from court funds. Those enormous additional sums, for an IT project considered a fiasco by many trial judges, were proposed as the budget crisis loomed. In addition, heavy staffing for the central office, retroactive raises, and a lavish pension plan for its top brass have also generated regular fire from the trial judges and legislators.