I posted a blog post about the LA Times writing an editorial in favor of not diverting funds from the court construction funds. In response, the LA Times published a response by Arnella Sims. I’m reprinting the letter to the editor in its entirety.
Keep California’s courts open
Failure to divert available funds to avoid layoffs and closures would have catastrophic effects on our economy.
February 11, 2010|By Arnella Sims
Economists, law enforcement officials and political and business leaders all agree: A healthy economy and our civil society depend on having timely, reliable access to our justice system. But you wouldn’t know it reading The Times’ Feb. 10 editorial, “Rebuilding California’s courts.”
It’s true that California’s aging courts infrastructure must be upgraded, which is exactly why it makes no sense to lay off 30% of Los Angeles’ court employees, who collect parking tickets, criminal fines and other fees — in other words, dollars that are necessary to retrofit aging and unsafe courthouses. Nor does it make sense to close courthouses while constructing new halls of justice in an effort to improve public access.
The Administrative Office of the Courts, or AOC — which oversees court operations statewide — has already forced closures of Los Angeles County courts one day each month. Anyone who has visited a courthouse knows the impact these closures have had on our system of justice, with longer wait times and more crowded courtrooms. Consequently, children in foster care, victims of domestic violence and other crimes, families trying to adopt children and others who rely on timely resolution of their cases are denied the justice they deserve. Imagine how much worse the impact will be when one-third of court workers and 30% of courtrooms operating now are gone.
Closing about 180 Los Angeles county courtrooms over the next few years, which the budget cuts require, would have a devastating effect on our local economy and impact even those who never set foot in a courtroom. A Dec. 2009 study by a local economic research firm found that if court closures continue, 150,000 people could lose their jobs and the state would suffer from $30 billion in lost economic activity.
Without the certainty that cases will be resolved in a timely manner, businesses that rely on our courts don’t have the assurance they need to operate normally. Litigation delays tie up economic resources. Whether a dispute involves a payment, land development or another matter, the financial and other assets in question cannot be put to use when caseloads pile up and resolutions are delayed. This is the last thing we need with unemployment in Los Angeles County already sky high and our families and businesses still facing economic uncertainty.