The Contra Costa County Superior Court has joined with 48 other trial courts across California to urge Gov. Jerry Brown to provide additional funding for the state's judicial branch.
In a Feb. 17 letter to the governor, presiding judges and court executive officers expressed concern over the lack of additional funding for trial court operations in the proposed 2017-18 fiscal year budget.
"To put it simply, as our expenses rise and our external revenues decrease, any annual budget that does not contain an offsetting increase is, in very real terms, a budget cut for the courts and a reduction in access to justice for Californians," an excerpt from the letter reads. "With no additional ongoing funding proposed in the budget for the trial courts, many courts will be required to lay off or furlough staff, reduce hours and/or eliminate programs in order to balance their budgets."
The court officials added that such reductions have already begun, pointing to the Alameda County Superior Court's recent move to cut clerks' hours in response to a budget deficit of more than $5 million.
They requested that an increase of $158.5 million in funding for trial courts be included in the governor's budget for next fiscal year.
"We note than on July 1, 2017, executive branch employees will receive a wage increase," court officials said. "We respectfully request that the trial courts be treated in an equitable fashion with the executive branch and that the trial courts be funded with a modest annual increase."
In a separate statement this week, Contra Costa County court executive officer Stephen Nash said, "Court pockets are empty and the cupboards are bare."
"Court staffing is down between 25% and 30% over the last five years, and state operations and facility funds are almost depleted," Nash said. "Looking forward, meanwhile, we are told that recession is a possibility and the 'good times' may soon be coming to an end!"