California budget cuts lead to talk of closing small claims court

“Access” stories are starting to bubble up as we see the real-world impacts from dramatic budget cuts to the California system, like counties having to decide if they want to keep handling adoptions and family issues or keep their small claims court open.

Nick Monacelli of Sacramento’s Channel 10 news has a (for TV) surprisingly in-depth look at what’s happening, including flat-out closing small claims. He even quotes a judge admitting that the justice system is breaking the law.

“In Sacramento County,” writes Monacelli on the station’s website, “194 positions have been cut. If the current budget remains, another 60 or 70 will go as well. The cuts are so bad they’re talking about shutting down small claims.”

Says a judge: “If we don’t stop doing small claims, then we have to stop doing adoptions, or personal protective orders, or we have to stop arraigning criminal defendants who are in custody.”

In San Joaquin County they’ve reportedly done just that, closing small claims altogether.

Reports Channel 10: When asked if the cuts are dancing a line of breaking the law, San Joaquin’s presiding Judge, David Warner said, “Absolutely. We’re not dancing on the line, we went over the line. We’re required to have small claims cases; they’re required to be heard. The code sets out a specific number of days. With small claims, I believe it’s 75 from filing to trial. If it’s sitting on a shelf, you’re not meeting that.”


See the video version of the story or read the report here.