Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Courts Budget Deal Struck?

The state's courts reportedly have come up with a proposal to address the $393 million in budget cuts they are scheduled to endure in the next fiscal year. According to news accounts, the Administrative Office of the Courts, with yeoman's assistance from Assembly Member Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles), chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, have reached an accord with legislative budget conferees to:
  • Close courthouses one day a month ($102 million);
  • Tap into funds earmarked for the new state computer system (CCMS), though the courts - though the AOC reportedly is authorized to trim elsewhere to reduce that amount ($102 million);
  • Tap into court construction and maintenance funds - with the apparent understanding that construction on projects already underway will not be affected ($25 million);
  • Raise civil filing fees $5 ($6-7 million);
  • Raise criminal fines and fees by $10 ($40 million);
  • Make a one-time only cut in statutory appropriation limit ($32 million);\Taken from trial court reserves ($70) million;
  • Redirect for for two years the funds raised by a $10 increase on certain fees proposed under Feuer's bill (AB 590) to create a "civil Gideon" pilot project under which free court-appointed counsel would be provided to low-income people in cases where basic human needs, such as shelter, sustenance, safety, health or child custody are at stake ($11 million).

The reported deal is the product of weeks of intense lobbying and debate. Many of the proposed elements of the deal cannot be implemented without statutory changes, which likely will appear in a budget "trailer" bill or bills.

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