San Francisco’s courts have cut their staff by 31 percent since 2008, forcing people to wait one to three hours in line to pay their traffic tickets. The San Francisco Chronicle says that was before Gov. Jerry Brown proposed cuts of $544 million to the state’s courts this week as part of a plan to make up California’s $16 billion deficit. “We’re rationing justice,” said Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the leader of the nation’s largest judicial system.
After four consecutive years of state funding reductions totaling $653 million, courts up and down the state have shuttered courtrooms that hear disputes over child custody, mortgages, and layoffs. Repairs of aging, unsafe courthouses have been postponed. Clerks’ offices where people file legal papers are closing early. Services for those who can’t afford lawyers, like self-help kiosks for family law, have been reduced. If the Legislature approves Brown’s court funding proposal, Cantil-Sakauye said, “the bottom is going to fall out. We’ve done all that we can.”