The eyes of the nation have been on Washington these past weeks waiting to see whether a deal over raising the nation’s debt ceiling would materialize. Now that the president has signed a deal that nobody is happy about, the question on many minds is how much this will affect the budgets of all fifty states which get millions in federal spending in one form or another.
Which then poses this question for California ’s judiciary: How much more will be cut from the judiciary’s budget next year? Notice how I said will be instead of may be. That’s because I believe the $300 million in budget cuts suffered by the judiciary is just the beginning. Maybe I’m just being too much of a pessimist, but if recent reports about the nation’s economy and jobs outlook hold true, it will be almost inevitable that the governor and the legislature will come knocking on the judiciary’s door with further cuts.
And when those cuts do come, all eyes will be on the Judicial Council and the AOC once again to see what their response will be. More importantly, people will want to know whether both entities will develop a new plan of action or whether they will continue to shift the shouldering of cuts onto local trial courts.
That may be a solution in the best of times when local courts have reserves to cover whatever cuts the JC and AOC dish out, but as we all know, these are not the best of times and next year isn’t looking so hot either. Those counties that may be able to avoid layoffs and diminished court hours this year may find themselves in a whole different position come next year. Today it’s San Francisco , Stanislaus, and Alameda . Tomorrow it may be Los Angeles , Ventura , Orange or who knows.
One thing is certain and that is the uncertainty of the economy for both our state and nation. And when things are so uncertain, is it wise for the JS and the AOC to continue as usual? Or is it time, for newer perspectives and priorities? The latter question is one many would answer with a resounding yes.