| Swearing-in ceremony comes at a time of pressure for the court system
by Brian Leubitz
Goodwin Liu officially got the thumbs up yesterday, and will be sworn in as the 4th Asian-American Justice of the 7 member panel. The occasion also marks the first time the Court has ever had an Asian-American majority.
But the state court system has taken a beating over the last eighteen months, right along with the rest of the state government. Of the three billion dollars that used to come from the general fund for the courts, that number is down to about $2.1 billion. In other words, a cut that is roughly 30% of the state's share. And, as a side note, the general fund is still the greatest source of revenue for the courts.
The cuts have hit different counties in different ways, however. I've written about the struggles at the San Francisco courts, where the cuts were felt most acutely. However, it seems that Presiding Judge Katherine Feinstein has reached a deal with leaders of the Administrative Office of the Courts to save a big chunk of what was to be cut:
An emergency funding compromise reached with the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) would significantly reduce the San Francisco Superior Court's staff layoffs from 177 to 75 and allow the Court to keep 11 civil courtrooms open, including both complex litigation departments, Presiding Judge Katherine Feinstein announced today. The agreement, which was struck after negotiations that began late last week and continued over the weekend, must be approved by the Judicial Council in a special meeting on September 9, 2011.
"This agreement represents a true compromise with the AOC to help the San Francisco Superior Court lessen the blow on access to justice," Judge Feinstein said. "If the Judicial Council approves the terms of the agreement, our Court would reduce civil courtroom closures from 25 to 14 and lay off 15 percent instead of 40 percent of our staff."
You can check the full release here. Judge Feinstein has never had particularly good relations with the AOC, as they have clashed over local court funding. But while this agreement saves civil justice in San Francisco for 18 months or so, the crisis is far from over. The courts, allegedly a co-equal branch of government, need funding just to keep the lights on.
Rumors of a possible ballot measure have been floated, but as of yet, neither the funding nor the will has been present. Another cycle of court funding crisis will likely change that.