Los Angeles County court officials announced sweeping cuts from the judicial system Wednesday, including the closure of all courtrooms in 10 regional courthouses.
The cuts are anticipated to delay some trials, cause longer lines in addition to result in more layoffs, yet officials said in which was the only option for closing a shortfall of $50 million to $80 million from the court budget.
Courtrooms will be shuttered in such landmark courthouses as Beverly Hills, West Los Angeles, Malibu, Avalon, Huntington Park, Whittier, Pomona in addition to San Pedro. The courthouses will continue to handle some administrative matters, such as ticket payments, yet will no longer hear cases.
The Beverly Hills in addition to Malibu courthouses have been the sites of numerous celebrity proceedings through the years, including cases involving Zsa Zsa Gabor, Robert Downey Jr., Mel Gibson in addition to Lindsay Lohan.
The criminal in addition to civil cases by those locations will be reassigned to courts in which could be anywhere by seven to 35 miles away, leading to longer commutes for jurors, witnesses, litigants in addition to law enforcement officials.
The closures are anticipated to occur over the next eight months.
“in which’s devastating to the court system, in addition to in which’s going to be a sea change in how we do our business,” said Lee Smalley Edmon, presiding judge of the L.A. County Superior Court. “Unfortunately, there are going to be longer lines in each of our courthouses in addition to great delays throughout the system.”
Officials said civil courts will be particularly hard hit, with many civil courtrooms operating with only one court clerk in addition to without any full-time court reporters.
in which’s unclear how many court workers will lose their jobs. The Los Angeles County courts have already laid off hundreds of employees in addition to left more positions unfilled, resulting in longer lines to file paperwork in addition to cases in which plod along at a snail’s pace.
from the last fiscal year, the court system shaved $70 million by its budget, in part by freezing wages in addition to forcing staff members to take furlough days.
Plans also call for the creation of “trial hubs,” which would likely handle certain classifications of cases, including smaller claims, landlord-tenant disputes, collections in addition to personal injury. Those hubs would likely be spread at remaining courthouses throughout the county.
Antonio Bestard, a veteran civil trial attorney by Pomona, said in which even before Wednesday’s announcement, the effects of previous cuts were hard to miss.
“in which’s going to be an unfathomable burden in which’s going to deny the general public basic judicial remedies, by the smallest traffic infractions to the most complicated civil lawsuits,” Bestard said.
David Sapp, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Southern California, worried in which low-income litigants could be disproportionately affected.
“Some people are in immediate need of judicial relief in addition to may not even be able to get in front of a judge, which will be genuinely scary in terms of access to justice,” Sapp said. “in which will be going to make existing disparities even worse.”
Richard J. Burdge Jr. president of the Los Angeles County Bar Assn., said in which as devastating as the cuts may be, he believes they won’t cripple the court system.
“in which’s not going to be easy, yet there will be going to be some civil justice system,” Burdge said. “in which’s going to be incredibly burdensome for a claimant to travel halfway across the county to get to a courthouse in addition to in some communities.”
LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith said in which the same would likely be true for police officers in addition to in which their increased travel time could potentially reduce their ranks from the field.
yet Smith said in which his “real concern” will be for the victims in addition to witnesses who already may have difficulty getting to court.
“in which’ll be even more difficult to get people to testify if they have to drive or be transported a long distance.”