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Courts hit by drastic cuts

Posted: June 16, 2012 1:00 a.m.
Updated: June 16, 2012 1:00 a.m.
 

Squeezed by state budget cutbacks, the Los Angeles County court system is launching massive layoffs, pay cuts and transfers, which started Friday, officials said.

“This goes back to the inability of state government to function responsibly to prioritize the vital services it needs to provide,” said Tony Bell, spokesman for Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich. “Its overspending has created a detriment to the courts and to public safety and now they want to raise taxes to try and cure their dysfunction.”

Implemented Friday, the cutbacks will effect 431 court employees and 56 courtrooms throughout the county’s superior court system.

In all, 24 civil courtrooms, three family law courtrooms, one probate courtroom and four juvenile delinquency courtrooms in the county will be closed, according to documents provided by the superior court.

The cutbacks will most likely postpone proposed construction of courthouses across the county, including in Castaic.

“At a minimum, these projects could be delayed for at least a year,” said Administrative Office of the Courts spokeswoman Theresa Ruano. “Everything will be put on hold for at least the next fiscal year.”

Because of the cutbacks, money originally set aide for court construction across the state will instead fund day-to-day court operations.

“The $240 million of the $300 million we expected will be redirected to court operations,” Ruano said. “Due to the limited amount of money the only projects allowed to proceed will be the seven to nine courthouses in the state close to construction.”

Another $50 million may be taken out of the budget for the 2012—2013 fiscal year, Ruano said.

“Over time, we may have to cancel some projects,” she said. “The money that is in the fund will not allow site acquisitions to be completed so there’s going to need to be a prioritization.”

Presiding Judge Lee Smalley Edmon bemoaned the loss of longtime employees as well as the impact on public service.

“We are laying off people who are committed to serving the public,” Edmon said. “It is a terrible loss both to the dedicated employees and to the public.”

In February, the civil and small claims department at the Santa Clarita Courthouse closed, a clerk said Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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