Closing Of Local Courthouses Amounts To Theft

Closing local courthouses amounts to theft, says the noted left-leaning reporter James Preston Allen, publisher of the San Pedro-based “Random Lengths News” newspaper. To support the claim, he turns to both the state public records law and some old fashioned arithmetic.
Writes Allen: “In April of this year, this newspaper filed a public records request with the Los Angeles Superior Court and found that the total monies collected from fees and fines at both the Avalon and San Pedro courts amounted to over $4.5 million per year. In fact, in fiscal year 2010-11 the total collected was a whopping $4,885,772. It would seem that of this gross amount, someone might figure out how to keep the courthouse doors open. But no, this is not the reality. The reason why the court can’t afford to keep doing business is that out of all these revenues collected, the State of California takes 54 percent, the county takes 37 percent and the cities receive 6 percent. And the court? In 2010-11, the court received a paltry one percent,or $48,857.52.” 
The writer, in his “At Length” column, says that he is “… personally and profoundly amazed by the indifference shown by the business community, most of the Council District 15 neighborhood councils and the legal profession who have all acquiesced to this abridgment of the public’s right to fair and equal access to the law. Not to mention the loss of 50 well paid jobs and requisite traffic to the court that generates business in the area.”
His headline is “Theft of the Courthouse” and you can read it here.

Judicial Council Planning Open Meeting, Will Stream Talks

They will call it “historic” this week as the state’s Judicial Council holds an actual public meeting that’s even set for streaming over the Internet. The Monterey Herald is among those heralding the event, calling it “… part of a broader effort to increase transparency in the state’s Judicial Council, which sets policy for the country’s largest court system and has been criticized for keeping its committee meetings and even agendas out of the public eye. A ruling defining the extent of public access to the council’s meetings is expected in coming months.” Increased public involvement was thought by many to be part of a deal that increased courts funding, but Gov. Brown apparently removed such provisions from the final budget.
Like every other California county, Monterey has court issues. Along with operational cuts, the raid on construction funds meant that $49 million worth of improvements, including “… three courtrooms in a 47,200-square-foot building; moving Salinas Valley civil suits to the facility; and adding a self-help center, a jury assembly room, children’s waiting room, holding cells, an alternative dispute resolution center, attorney interview rooms and witness waiting rooms” were “delayed.” 

Transit Strike Underscores Problems With Court Closures: What Happens When Access Goes Away?

Lots of issues surface during a transit strike like this week’s BART shutdown in San Francisco. Let’s add one more: By “consolidating” what were community courts, the courts – especially the Los Angeles Superior Court — has made access to justice much more dependent on mass transit, and nobody has mentioned what happens when you can’t make court because of problems with transit, whether that is a strike or just some random breakdown. Does somebody face a bench warrant because a bus overheats?
Granted, even community courts faced similar challenges. But let’s note that, as The Los Angeles Times reported back in March, “… in the 21-page [lawsuit] filing, the organizations said the reduction in the number of courthouses hearing such cases from 26 to five throughout the county will create difficulties for low-income tenants and people with disabilities fighting eviction… some people will have to travel up to 32 miles to litigate their cases, court officials have said. The trips ‘to the courthouse for these tenants will require numerous transfers and travel to unfamiliar areas and will be prohibitively difficult and expensive,’ the lawsuit states.”
So the best-case for those using public transit is a living hell. But we need to address how the courts handle lack of transit, and the BART strike is the first large-scale example since the rationing of justice began for real last week. It’s a good time to revisit the lawsuit coverage, see L.A.Times.
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Governor, Judicial Council Dismiss ‘Open Government’ Provisions

In a likely blow to an already tense relationship, the California Judicial Council has successfully side-stepped an “open government” provision of the state budget that would have required that the group’s meetings be public. The Judicial Council, which is the administrative office of the justice system, had come under fire during the recent state budget process for its spending practices and for conducting most of its decision-making process in secret. Labor groups, in particular, argue that too many judicial admin decisions are made without public comment.
Those concerns earned provision to open Judicial Council process as part of a budget bargain. But last Friday, reports Courthouse News Service, “… after lobbying by California’s Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Governor Jerry Brown on Thursday ‘blue penciled,’ or eliminated, that transparency provision.”