California Court System Faces Uncertain Financial Future

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Californians could soon be facing long lines and long waits at court houses across the state.

The state court system is facing a $350 million budget deficit and California’s Judicial Council met Friday to discuss how best to deal with the massive shortfall.

KCBS’ Mark Seelig:

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said California is in a financial mess and everyone will suffer, including the justice system.

“The ability to withstand this crushing reduction in fiscal year ’11-’12, and to continue to make good in our branch’s promise of justice and access to justice in the out years, is predicated on our acting and deciding today these difficult issues in a fair, civil and deliberative process as a branch,” she said.

However, the cuts already are being felt in places like San Francisco where 25 of the 63 courtrooms soon will close to make up a $13 million deficit.  As a result, civil cases in the city could take up to five years to resolve.

Doris Cheng, a personal injury attorney with the San Francisco firm Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger said the court system faces a precarious future.

“We can’t exist where the Seventh Amendment to a jury trial means nothing. We can’t exist where all of our rights to bring a claim, to have them resolved in an unbiased forum is simply cut off,” said Cheng.

Cheng said we’re close to evolving into a society in which civil disputes will be wholly disregarded.

She added that what’s really disturbing is that next year’s financial picture is shaping up to be worse than this year’s.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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