Court Cuts Could Put Families At Risk

State Court System Faces Cuts If Gov. Jerry Brown's Tax Measure Fails

Potential state budget cuts could have a major impact on the safety of people trying to get restraining orders and families trying to settle custody disputes.

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Tess said it did not take long before her marriage turned violent, which is why she chose to hide her true identity.

About a month ago on a Friday afternoon, Tess told 10News she went to the San Diego County Courthouse to file a restraining order, but the process took too long and she was told to return Monday.

"I had to spend the whole weekend living out of fear," Tess said.

Justice could take much longer if millions of dollars are slashed from the state's court budget later this year.

The business office at San Diego's Family Court closes at 3:30 p.m., but if budget cuts go through, many will have a tough time gaining access -- something Tess said cannot happen.

"My life cannot depend on vacations, schedules, budgets," she said.

Up to $125 million could be cut from the state's court budget if Gov. Jerry Brown's tax measure fails.

Los Angeles County has already closed 56 courtrooms and laid off hundreds of employees.

"If courts are closed, access to justice is denied," said Jon Williams of the Court Funding Action Committee.

The Court Funding Action Committee is comprised of 26 attorneys and former judges. Members of CFAC have already met with local legislators, educating them about the court funding crisis.

San Diego courts currently have nearly 300 unfilled positions, and the San Diego County Bar Association says families are at risk. 10News learned child custody cases take a minimum of three months to get a hearing date.

"Our courts right now are running on fumes and there's no way to survive trigger cuts," said Richard Huver of the Court Funding Action Committee.

Tess said she worries not only about herself, but others going through family matters that need to be addressed in court right away.

"These sort of things have no schedule. It's 24/7. Tragedies [don't] happen on business hours," said Tess.

Businesses who depend on civil courts to resolve disputes will also be hurt by cuts.

"When you cannot staff the courtrooms, then people in those situations will just not have access to justice," Williams said.

"It's very unsettling for the courts to prepare for a year, and not know whether there will be cuts down the road or not," Huver added.

Since 2007, the California Judicial System has absorbed $653 million in cuts.

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