Good news about state budget leaves something out

Namely the fact that California has come off several years of massive cost cutting - and these are not temporary cuts. That money is basically gone. So the operating budget is close to being balanced, but at a huge cost. Good example is the courts system, which is faced with another $80 million in cuts next year. From this week's Business Update on KPCC:

Mark Lacter: This latest round will result in the closure of 10 courthouses in L.A. County. They include West L.A., Beverly Hills, South L.A., Whittier, and Pomona. And make make no mistake: this is going to cause all kinds of delay and dislocation for everybody.

Steve Julian: It'll turn judges into jugglers?

Lacter: That's right. At any one time, judges will be handling thousands of cases. So, if you have a personal injury dispute, or if you want to sue your boss, or if you're a business owner and haven't been paid by one of your big customers - in other words, if you have any business or personal matter that you want to see resolved in court... well, just get in line. Small claims cases, which are now heard in 26 courtrooms, will be heard in only six. And any sort of landlord-tenant dispute will be handled in five courtrooms, down from 26.

Julian: ...And layoffs?

Lacter: Yes, there will be layoffs. Even before these upcoming cuts, L.A. Superior Court had lost around 900 positions. As to why it's gotten this bad, there are several explanations, starting with the recession and also a botched effort to centralize the state court system. But a big problem is structural: the legislative branch holds the purse strings to the supposedly independent judicial branch. When different interest groups are all competing for the same limited bundle of cash (and we're talking about welfare and health programs, the schools, and law enforcement, and Caltrans, and everything else), the court system is well down the list of priorities. Until Sacramento figures out a better way of funding the courts, then they will remain susceptible to these massive budget cuts.

More by Mark Lacter:
American-US Air settlement with DOJ includes small tweak at LAX
Socal housing market going nowhere fast
Amazon keeps pushing for faster L.A. delivery
Another rugged quarter for Tribune Co. papers
How does Stanford compete with the big boys?
Those awful infographics that promise to explain and only distort
Best to low-ball today's employment report
Further fallout from airport shootings
Crazy opening for Twitter*
Should Twitter be valued at $18 billion?
Recent Business Update on KPCC stories:
Naysaying emerges in wake of LAX shootings*
Holiday shopping: On your marks, get set... spend!
What to do with all that bad chicken?
Why it's hard to gauge progress of health care programs
Why L.A. isn't being hit too hard by shutdown - for now

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
The multi-talented Mark Lacter
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