DOWNTOWN L.A. — The presiding judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court announced Tuesday the layoffs of 330 employees, along with plans to shutter courtrooms to help cope with a $79 million budget shortfall.
The cutbacks are expected to be the first wave, with more job cuts and courtroom closures anticipated in six months.
In Santa Monica, a family courtroom has been closed for about five months, Santa Monica Presiding Judge Gerald Rosenberg said.
West Los Angeles also experienced a civil courtroom closure months ago, and Malibu’s civil courtroom closure has yet to occur, but is scheduled for early April. The courtrooms are not expected to be reopened.
“That brings a lot of havoc to the parties,” said Rosenberg of the Santa Monica closure. Families now have to travel an extra 20 to 30 miles, Rosenberg added.
Parachini said there is still another family courtroom open in Santa Monica, but it is not uncommon for Santa Monica residents to file in Downtown L.A.
Some courthouses could be closed also.
“It’s going to take a miracle to prevent courthouse closures, not to say that miracles don’t happen,” Parachini said.
The 329 layoffs are in addition to 156 voluntary departures through attrition that are projected during the 2009 to 2010 fiscal year. In June, a total of 485 jobs will be eliminated and as many as 500 layoffs are anticipated by September.
Employees who have been laid off are primarily comprised of clerical assistants, court services assistants, and judicial assistants.
“Our court’s deficit is $79.3 million in Fiscal Year 2009 to 2010, and we have few means of achieving substantial savings other than staff reductions,” said Presiding Judge Charles W. “Tim” McCoy Jr.
“We have explored every financial scenario before taking this action, but more than 80 percent of our budget goes to salaries and benefits, which forces [these] drastic measures,” said McCoy.
The court made $16 million in non-staff cuts and is using reserves to minimize staffing reductions as long as possible.
The Superior Court system last summer implemented once-monthly furlough days, shutting the bulk of the court system in an effort to save $18 million a year. Another furlough day is scheduled for Wednesday.
Officials with the court said up to 1,800 staff positions may be eliminated as it tries to cope with a projected $130 million in coming years.
Some effects which the county will most immediately feel include operator service, which will be eliminated at the Traffic Telephone Call Center. Busy phone lines and longer lines at traffic windows are expected. Of the 19,200 daily calls to the call center, some 10 percent require the assistance of an operator, stated the report from the L.A. Superior Court.
Traffic night court sessions will be reduced from twice to once a month a the Metropolitan Courthouse. The report also stated that further delays are inevitable.
Including Tuesday’s layoffs, the total staff reduction since February 2009 is reportedly 42 percent. The time to process requests for files and case reproduction will increase by 50 percent, paid file requests waiting times may increase from four to eight months and no-fee requests may increase from six months to a year. Reproduction waiting time is also expected to double.
Additionally, the court will no longer provide financial support and supervising personnel to the Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Program, based at the Edward D. Edelman Children’s Court. CASA volunteers work on behalf of abused, neglected and abandoned children involved in dependency court matters.
The Los Angeles Superior Court is the nation’s largest trial court system, with 600 courtrooms in 50 courthouses throughout the county.