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County courthouses enact monthly furloughs

Drastically reduced court services one day a month saves millions for struggling system

Posted: July 14, 2009 8:18 p.m.
Updated: July 15, 2009 4:55 a.m.

The Los Angeles Superior Court system is starting a series of monthly furlough days today to offset a severe budget shortfall, leaving county courthouses able to provide only the most basic of services.

On the third Wednesday of every month, each courthouse will close nearly all of their courtrooms and force all but seven percent of their employees to take an unpaid day off. The move will save the court system about $18 million, said Mary Hearn, a superior court spokeswoman.

However, the furloughs alone will not come close to closing the court system’s estimated budget gap. The courts, which had a budget of $938 million last year, expects a $138 million shortfall.

Los Angeles Superior Court has also instituted a hard hiring freeze, and will probably save more money as employees leave and their positions remain unfilled, Hearn said.

Those who must go to court to deal with traffic tickets or other issues will probably feel the pain in the form of delays in service.

“There’s going to be an impact, there’s no question about it,” Hearn said.

Even on the furlough days, the courts will handle basic and urgent issues, including mandatory hearings, domestic violence and elder abuse cases, and certain restraining orders. Court clerk’s offices will be open, but papers will have to be filed in a secure drop box before 4:30 p.m.

The court system expects to cut deeply into its $90 million in reserve funds.

“A significant amount of that will be used to offset the shortfall,” Hearn said, “because obviously the gap is tremendous.”

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