On Tuesday, L.A. County Court officials announced that the Los Angeles County Superior Court plans to eliminate more than 500 jobs by this week. While in total 511 court positions are being eliminated, only 177 people would directly lose jobs. However 223 people would be asked to new work locations and an additional 139 persons would be demoted and face pay cuts. Since 2008, the L.A. County Court has lost close to 900 employees including those scheduled to go on this round.
Earlier this week, the governor had agreed to restore $63 million to the courts, but it will not stop the loss of jobs.
David Wesley, the presiding judge of the L.A. County Superior Court said in a statement, “We are glad that restoration of trial court funding has begun … But it is a shame that it is too little, too late, to stop the awful reductions in access to justice that state funding cuts have brought … the budget cuts mean the system simply does not have the resources to continue to provide the same level of resources.”
How are budget cuts and layoffs affecting access to justice for the people?
A single instance, that of Lake Isabella, goes to show. As of Monday, the doors of Kern County Superior Court Branch in Lake Isabella are closed. Residents will have to drive to Bakersfield to access justice or file lawsuits. Budget cuts have also affected other parts of California and from September Taft/Maricopa Branch Court would operate only on Thursdays.
Other states are also facing the same pressure. In May, Alabama’s chief justice announced that at least 150 employees will face layoffs from Oct 1 due to budget cuts. Constitutional protections are becoming weakened as people lose access to justice in a system where court systems are severely underfunded.