Tuesday, September 8, 2009

State Courts To Close One Day a Month Starting 9/16/09

Closures Result of Unprecedented State Budget Cuts

All California state courts will close Wednesday, September 16, 2009, as a cost-savings measure to help courts cope with unprecedented budget reductions in the judicial branch of government.

As recently authorized by Government Code section 68106 which was passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, the Judicial Council approved the court closures on the third Wednesday of the month starting in September 2009 and continuing through June 2010.

“The mission of the Judicial Council is to improve access to justice, so it was extremely difficult for us to make any decision that results in closing our courts,” stated Chief Justice Ronald M. George, chair of the Judicial Council, the 27-member policymaking body for the state courts.

“However, in the face of severe budget reductions, the council approved the closures as a way to partially offset the budget cutbacks while seeking to protect court employees and critical court programs that provide services to the public,” he continued.

All state courts will be closed: the Supreme Court of California, the Courts of Appeal, and the superior courts in each of California’s 58 counties. The Administrative Office of the Courts will be closed on the same day as the courts.

Court Closure Days

The court closure days are September 16, 2009; October 21, 2009; November 18, 2009; December 16, 2009; January 20, 2010; February 17, 2010; March 17, 2010; April 21, 2010; May 19, 2010; and June 16, 2010.

The closures of state courts one day a month will result in savings of about $94.3 million on a statewide basis. In addition to court closures, the Judicial Council took other actions to reduce the impact of the judicial branch’s $414 million budget reduction.

The council reallocated $159 million in special funds to offset cuts to the trial court operations budget. The special funds address a portion of the court funding cuts and unfunded growth costs for court security, dependency counsel for children in neglect and abuse cases; court interpreters for those who speak little or no English; and employee retirement costs. The council also allocated $46.7 million in projected new fee revenues to the trial courts.

In addition to approving the monthly closures, the council also directed that information on monetary savings from the court closures and the impact of the closures on court users, county justice partners, and court operations be reported to the council in January 2010. Based on that information, the council may reconsider whether to continue or reduce the number of monthly closures for the remainder of the fiscal year.

The Judicial Council considered other alternatives to court closures, but none would have resulted in as much savings as the statewide monthly closures but instead would have further reduced services to the public.

Court closure days are to be counted as holidays for the purpose of computing time for statutory deadlines. Click here for the full report.

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