California's largest court poised for cutbacks

Staff cutbacks in Los Angeles courts will affect 539 employees

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Los Angeles court officials will cut 539 jobs, likely resulting in long lines and reduced services.

Presiding Superior Court Judge David Wesley made the announcement Thursday, further restricting a court system that began facing cuts with the budget crisis in 2008.

"We have reached the new normal, and there is nothing to like about it," said Wesley.

He said the cuts will save $56 million a year but undermine the goal of a court system serving all areas of the county.

"This is not the neighborhood court we worked so hard to build," Wesley said in a written statement. "It is not our vision for access to justice. But this is the court the state is willing and able to support."

By the time July 1 rolls around, Wesley said the court will have eliminated 30 percent of its budgeted staff positions since 2002. It marks a 24 percent reduction since the state budget crisis began in 2008.

The cutbacks will include 177 outright layoffs and hundreds of demotions and transfers. The state's largest court system has closed eight courthouses and cut back services at others. It has eliminated remaining part-time court reporters in civil courts and all full-time referee positions in the juvenile courts. Other departments have been consolidated into fewer locations.

Although a legislative committee and the governor agreed this week to restore $60 million to state courts, Wesley said only $20 million of that will go to Los Angeles and will not be enough to avoid layoffs.

He called it "too little too late" but said he hoped it signals that there will be no further cuts in the foreseeable future.

Employees were to get their layoff notices delivered Friday.

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