County Supervisors Oppose Court Closings

Courtrooms are slated to go dark in Beverly Hills and throughout L.A. County.

The Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to send a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature "expressing strong opposition" to proposed reductions in funding for trial courts.

Plans have already been made to close 10 courthouses in Beverly Hills, Huntington Park, Whittier, Pomona, Malibu, West Los Angeles, San Pedro and Catalina, as well as the Kenyon Juvenile Justice Courthouse, later this year. And going forward, probate, personal injury and certain types of civil cases will only be heard in the Stanley Mosk Courthouse downtown.

Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who recommended the letter, said funding for trial courts statewide has been cut by more than $475 million over the last five years. The Los Angeles Superior Court has already decreased costs by more than $110 million through layoffs and attrition, but is facing a deficit next year of between $56 million and $85 million, according to Antonovich.

The governor's budget proposal anticipates the use of special reserves to temporarily support trial court operations, but calls for $200 million in permanent savings to be instituted by 2014-15.

Brown has called his proposal, released Jan. 10, "a budget that lives within its means, now and for many years to come."

Union leaders warned of even longer court delays and, ultimately, disputes going unresolved.

"The number of people coming through our doors each day is not decreasing," Mark Natoli of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees told the board. "We aren't going to be able to keep up much longer without impacting public safety and denying people access to justice."

The board's vote was unanimous in support of drafting the letter, though Supervisor Gloria Molina said she sympathized with the difficult decisions faced by state officials.

"But it is a gentle nudge," Molina said. "I don't mind that, writing to the governor, asking him to find another way."

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