Lawyers, labor, leaders rally for court funding
A campaign by attorneys and labor and business leaders to restore funding to state courts is beginning to get some attention, and it's about time. As The Times notes in an editorial Tuesday, courts stand apart because of their essential role in a society of law. Every part of California government has to take -- and has taken -- serious budget cuts, but the justice system must be first in line for restoration.
Instead, under Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal, courts are first in line for further "trigger" cuts if voters reject taxes and if other hoped-for revenue fails to materialize.
A committee known as the Open Courts Coalition, headed by Los Angeles attorney Paul R. Kiesel and Burlingame lawyer Niall McCarthy, is calling on the Legislature to keep the courthouse doors open in 58 Superior Courts around the state by keeping court funding intact and gradually restoring $350 million that has been cut in recent years. The group closed off a block of Grand Avenue between Disney Hall and the Stanley Mosk Courthouse on Jan. 18 for a rally to support the courts; speakers included former Gov. Gray Davis and former state Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno.
In a video prepared by the group and delivered to Sacramento lawmakers on Jan. 13, members of the legal, business and labor communities do their best to get the Legislature's attention. (See the video at the top of this post.)
"Courts strangely are much like fire and police," says Milo Brown, court employees business representative for AFSCME Council 36. "You never think about them, you're never concerned about them, until you need them."
"The work you do in the Legislature, what you bring to the governor to sign into law, is meaningless if there is no forum to enforce it," says California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye.
Participation and cooperation of the Los Angeles Superior Court as well as statewide court leaders and representatives of court employees is significant, because they are sharply at odds on actual court expenditure and management issues. Here are some examples of participation by court supporters with a stake in keeping the courts functioning.
Cantil-Sakauye visited The Times' editorial board this month to discuss court funding and unhappiness expressed by many judges with centralized leadership -- the Judicial Council, which Cantil-Sakauye heads -- and with a costly case management computer system. Listen to her remarks here, here and here.
Photo: Court workers, attorneys, judges and business and labor leaders gather for a rally to restore court funding on Jan. 18 in downtown Los Angeles. Credit: Lance Rubin / Open Courts Coalition.