April 17, 2012

So a further 30 million dollars is to be slashed from our court system here in California, the largest in the nation? This is on top of the 70 million already taken away this last fiscal year. That’s, get this, $100 MILLION DOLLARS. This means that by the end of June, there will be:

350 fewer employees

56 fewer courtrooms

No court reporters for civil trials unless bought and paid for by the litigants (Appeal? Good luck with that. Shoot the wounded? They may now shoot the living dead)

4 Juvenile Delinquency courts will close

A program that annually sees more than 100,000 minors in trouble for low-level offenses faces elimination

And the result? We can now expect to see divorce and custody hearings stretched out for months and years. Any conclusion will become superfluous, and lives will take longer to go down the drain.

Our court officials have this to say, and notice the self-serving bias:

Juvenile Court presiding judge Michael Nash said We have 20,000 kids on probation and we want to help those kids to turn their lives around. The less time you have to deal with them, the less likely you are going to be able to do that.

Court Executive Officer/clerk John Clarke (no relation) said Never before has a budget crisis dealt so crippling a blow to our court.

Superior Court presiding judge Lee Smalley Edmon said These extraordinary actions cut into the core work of the courts. With risks of more reductions on the horizon, we are already rationing justice….. The public cannot tolerate any further major service reductions.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said Since 2008, the judicial branch budget has seen an unprecedented cut in its ability to function, struggling mightily to provide justice for all.


Sterling Norris, of the public interest group JUDICIAL WATCH said, in his letter to D.A. Steve Cooley dated April 13, 2011, that in the eleven year period from 1997 to 2008, the County of Los Angeles had illegally paid an estimated $350 MILLION DOLLARS in supplemental judicial benefits to approximately 1,000 Superior Court judges. He said that it was the duty of the D.A. to sue for the recovery of this money and to add 20% for damages. He said that if the D.A. didn’t want to go after the money, then the citizens of Los Angeles County could, by federal law, do it, in the name of the county, for these payments had not been authorized by the legislature. Later defensive actions from, of all places, Sacramento and the California Supreme Court under Ronald George, resulted in nothing being done, and instead they immunized the judges from future and past(!) attacks and recovery attempts.

The loudest of the protestors was the heroic senior citizen Richard Fine, in his 70s put away in solitary confinement for eighteen months for his noise by a pouting judge. I’ve written up his story below.

I HAVE A SOLUTION! Two, actually.

First, use this opportunity to make a sea change in the way justice is meted out, and at much less cost. How?

a. Do away with lawyer judges altogether. Let them come from the ranks of ordinary citizens.

b. Dispense with the hogwash precedential tomes gathering dust on the shelves of countless law libraries and in the chambers of countless judges.

c. Replace “The Law” as we know it, with the structure of the Small Claims Court model, presided over by tribunals of one or more ordinary citizens like you and me. (No, not you, Mr. Esquire.)

d. Let divorces and custody cases be mediated so that the action is between the principals alone, under the watchful eye of the court. And when the contest is ended, let them sign a written agreement, which becomes an enforceable contract.

e. Let litigant warfare be waged by principals, not lawyers, in front of juries, not judges.

Second, let the money stolen from the public by judges be returned to the people for use in these new courts. Let this money (it’s approaching half a billion dollars with interest) go back into the coffers of the general budget to provide justice for the citizens of California.

Here’s a Third. Nominate Jerry Springer for Chief Justice. He’d know the way to go, how to set it up, and how to get fast results. That’s not such a wild suggestion, given the Arnold Schwarzeneggar-for-Governor experiment.