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One department in Santa Clarita Courthouse shut down

One employee laid off as court cuts enacted

Posted: June 22, 2012 5:50 p.m.
Updated: June 22, 2012 5:50 p.m.

One Santa Clarita Courthouse department will be shut down and one employee will be laid off due to cuts in the Superior Court system mandated by state funding reductions, officials said this week.

The cuts, which were announced and implemented June 15, were expected to affect 431 court employees and 56 courtrooms throughout Los Angeles County, forcing the closure of 24 civil courtrooms, three family law courtrooms, one probate courtroom and four juvenile delinquency courtrooms.

Department Four at the Santa Clarita courthouse has been closed, said Deni Butler, a deputy executive officer with the Superior Court system in Los Angeles County.

The civil, small claims and unlawful detainer cases heard at the department are now heard at the Chatsworth Courthouse, Butler said.

Department F at the San Fernando Courthouse is also closing, Butler said. Department F heard some felony cases from the Santa Clarita Valley after court officials moved all Santa Clarita Valley felony cases down to San Fernando last summer.

The remaining courtrooms at the San Fernando Courthouse will hear the cases that were heard in Department F, Butler said.

Laying off staff at the 56 closing courtrooms will save the Superior Court system $6.8 million, a news release said. Countywide, 157 people are being laid off and 108 people are losing 40 percent of their salary, a news release said.

In total, staff cuts will save the court system $30 million, a news release said.

The proposed state budget for next year includes $544 million in cuts to the judicial branch and more than $40 million in cuts to the Superior Court system.

Courthouses in Los Angeles County are jointly owned by the county and the state and staffed by state employees. Los Angeles County is the only county in the state to have joint ownership of its courthouses.

Mason Arshtian, a Santa Clarita Valley lawyer, said the Department Four closure won't affect the Santa Clarita courthouse because the department has not had a permanent judge for years.

"Every time we would show up for trial, we would get pushed back and told to come back in a year," Arshtian said. "Nothing would get done."

Arshtian said cases he filed at Department Four in 2008 still haven't gone to trial. He said attorneys and commissioners would temporarily sit as judge when they weren't busy in other departments.

"You have to have a sitting judge," Arshtian said. "Otherwise, it doesn't work."




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