In case those who support the court closures forget who have been affected most by their decision to close the courts once a month, they need only look to people like Ms. Lori Mattingly who shared her first hand experience with the Modesto Bee on what a closed courtroom door means to her.
Nearly two years into her divorce proceedings, Lori Mattingly hit a wall. Or rather, the locked doors of the Stanislaus County Superior Courthouse.
Mattingly, 50, showed up to file paperwork the same day court workers took their first state-imposed furlough day — one in a series that will last through at least July.
The halls of justice close the third Wednesday of each month, affecting all state courts in an effort to shrink a $361 million courts budget deficit.
Since being locked out that September day, Mattingly has noticed the courthouse has been busier, with longer lines and wait times.
“You get in a routine, going there so many times,” Mattingly said. “It was very frustrating. Now, it’s busier and more of a hassle.”
And aside from the public, it goes without saying that those who work in the courts have also seen a negative effect with a backlog affecting attorneys, court deputies, and courtroom staff.
“It’s legal triage,” said Peter Stavrianoudakis, president of the Stanislaus County Criminal Bar Association and a deputy public defender.
“Police officers aren’t taking a furlough day and arresting … less people (that week),” he said. “The small amount of time we spend assisting and advising our clients is now dramatically reduced. Those clients get less service than the other weeks because we simply have less time to spend with each person.”
Well, if people think there’s a backlog now, just wait till next year if things remain as bad as some predict. If the AOC continues to fund other projects and ask to close courts on more days, well backlog won’t be the word that I’d use to describe what’ll happen.
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