Strange Days Loom As Budget Deadlines Near, Courts Still Face Crisis

It remains quiet – too quiet! – on the media front as the California courts budget crisis gets eclipsed by high-profile moves to move or release prison inmates and other high-profile issues. As we’ve noted before, one challenge facing civil courts is that nobody knows what they’ve got until its gone, and for many the access to family law and other justice services is going, going…

The public part of the state budget debates is held during the “June gloom” season because the state constitution “requires” the legislature to pass the budget by June 15, a deadline that has been seldom met (we went 23 of 24 years missing it, but passed it on time last year), and never with any real consequence. As a budget expert with Gov. Schwarzenegger famously put it:  “If you do something bad and you never get punished for it, then you don’t see it as being bad anymore.”

What seems a sure bet, reading between the lines, is that ongoing talks will find some additional money for the courts, but how much and where it goes will doubtless remain a mystery until the very end – that’s not going to sit well with critics who say one problem is lack of a public process. But the context is being set by events like the recent conference call when a former Shasta County Superior Court judge said that families facing breakups in Shasta now face a three-month wait for a permanent custody and visitation order.

What seems likely is that the next wave of cuts will hit in the coming weeks and June will find a full-on crisis in front of the “real” deadline, the next fiscal year that begins July 1. Read more about the context of courts cuts at the state’s bar association website.