Limited state resources creating ‘priorities’ context

Rapidly diminishing state resources are fueling a context of discussing state spending priorities, although maybe not directly. That’s why a discussion about Gov. Brown’s attempt to exit federal court direction on prisons can prompt an ACLU official to link that with public education.

The base story is that the governor argues that there’s no need to do more to reduce California inmate population and that court-installed caps should be listed. In short, the state says improvements have helped even in places never designed for current population levels. It’s an interesting argument, and it has sparked interesting responses.

Says one ACLU official, commenting in the L.A. Times: “Insisting that we maintain a horrendously bloated prison population will only ensure that California remain near the bottom of the nation in per-pupil spending on public education.”  It’s one of several examples of people starting to question state priorities, especially where the justice system is involved.

A panel of three federal judges, presiding over class-action lawsuits over inmate medical, dental and mental health care, will evaluate the argument. Read the L.A. Times report by Paige St. John here.

Details expected soon, but court cuts are coming

Reading the future of California courts lately has been like one of those old western movies: It’s quiet… too quiet. And while some corners might hold out hope for reduced cutbacks since voters approved the November passage of the governor’s revenue increase, some have actually begun noticing that the closures announced last year were not election bluster but actual announcements; many came post-election. 

Some of the fallout and “ripple effect” has gained coverage, although mostly from the communities directly impacted. In Los Angeles County the Whittier Daily News, for example, has been atop the changes with reporter Peter Fullam noting last month that “… planned closure of all the courtrooms in the Whittier Courthouse could take a heavy toll on area law enforcement and on citizens, witnesses, victims and others who use the judicial services.”

Background: The Los Angeles County Superior Court announced shortly after that November election that, due to a shortfall expected to range between $56.6million to $85.3 million, it is closing court services from 10 county courthouses, including Whittier’s. The ripple effect even has some downtowns, those that still have courthouses, worried about traffic and parking while others worry that witnesses and police have to travel out of town.

More details are expected next month, and you can read Fullam’s report here.  

Does education overhaul offer hope for court reform?


Governor Jerry Brown

Since California voters gave the state increased revenues in November, court budget observers have watched eagerly for hints of how the new reality might play out, especially in the wake of already cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from the justice system.

Gov. Brown has been virtually silent on that front, but is signaling that some new proposals, which are expected to surface next week, will seek truly sweeping changes – at least for education. That has no doubt led many to speculate that similar big-picture approaches might be in store for the courts. Certainly some of the same issues are in play, especially the local-vs.-state decision-making powers.

Anthony York of the L.A. Times has a good New Year curtain-raiser story on the budget strategy,  saying the governor “… said he wants more of the state’s dollars to benefit low-income and non-English-speaking students, who typically are more expensive to educate.” [Read more…]