Budget woes: Can California's judicial system recover from a five-year crisis?

It's been a rough go for California's judicial system in recent years.
Budget cuts sliced more than $1 billion from court coffers over a five-year span -- drastic cuts that hit the state's judicial system hard. Jobs have been lost, courts have closed and judges argue that something must be done to ensure justice is being served.
The solution, some say, is that the state's judicial system simply needs more money.
Gov. Jerry Brown is trying to solve the problem. In January, he proposed a $105 million increase in funding for the courts (for next year). That's a lot of money and will certainly make a dent. But is it enough to help the judicial system bounce back?
One chief justice told the Los Angeles Times in January that the judicial system would actually need an extra $1.2 billion over a three-year span to fully recover.
“We are rationing justice, and it's become more than a fiscal problem,” Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye told the newspaper. “It is in my view now a civil rights problem."
There is that concern and whenever you talk budget crisis there are also questions about how the money is being spent. For example, eyebrows were raised over the $1.2 billion that was spent on a computer system overhaul -- a computer system that never worked.
And then there are the millions of dollars spent on leasing office space for justices in Symphony Towers, one of San Diego's tallest buildings. It'll end up costing taxpayers $23 million over the course of the lease.

The problem is not an easy one to solve and there are many questions.

Is there anything more the governor can do? Would an infusion of $1.2 billion over three years, as one chief justice recommends, repair the damage that's been done? If that's the solution, then where would that money come from? Or is the real problem where the dollars are going? Does the state's judicial system need an overhaul?

A full recovery, at least at this point, appears to be out of reach. It remains to be seen how this will continue to impact the state's courts and the people they serve.


Print this article Back to Top