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If you are waiting for your subrogation case to go to trial, do not expect much to happen in the immediate future. The Los Angeles Daily Journal reports that the Superior Court system remains severely under funded in the current California budget.

Trial courts are left many millions “short of the amount necessary” to sustain services, said Brian Walsh, presiding judge of the Santa Clara County Superior Court and chair of the Judicial Council’s presiding judges committee. In Santa Clara, that’s going to push the court to close courtrooms and reduce resources for various public services, including family court mediation and self-help centers. Clerical staffing will also be reduced, which will increase wait times for the public. Walsh said the court would absorb the funding shortfall by not filling positions as workers retire. “Our vacancy rate has [grown] to 28 percent,” Walsh said. “Now, we expect it will go up to 33 to 35 percent.”

Many other courts are planning similar strategies. Barry Goode, presiding judge of Contra Costa County Superior Court, said furlough days were one way his court would deal with cuts. “Last year, because of one-time solutions, we were able to not furlough [and] keep the courts open,” Goode said. “But we’re looking at the numbers, and it appears we may have no choice.” The court has the option to force staff to stay home without pay for up to nine days a year, Goode said. With employee compensation comprising the largest chunk of courts’ budgets, that could save the court hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. Goode said prior years’ cuts had forced the court to already close some courtrooms. Many courts across the state have had to reduce staffing to the point where many of their judges lack an assigned courtroom, and litigants are forced to travel long distances to handle cases. The Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles has even filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County Superior Court over its strategy of consolidating court operations by shuttering many regional courthouses.

Marsha Slough, presiding judge of the San Bernardino County Superior Court, said her historically underfunded court made severe cuts in previous years that have eliminated rural residents’ access to nearby facilities. However, she said her court wouldn’t be making new cuts. Additionally, a new method of divvying up funding for courts by workload, which the Judicial Council voted to gradually phase in last year, will account for more than 15 percent of courts’ funding in 2014-15. While that will slightly shrink the coffers of traditionally better funded courts, it will slightly increase allocations to courts  like San Bernardino. However, the current budget means slashed services can’t be restored, Slough said. “We were very hopeful if we got what the [chief justice] asked for, we’d be able to restore limited services in remote areas,” she said.

Douglas Miller, a 4th District Court of Appeal justice and Judicial Council member, said branch leadership understood many agencies throughout the state hadn’t gotten any funding increase, and the judiciary is grateful for the funding increase they received. But “It still falls short, and it’ll have a big impact on courts and their ability to provide access to justice,” he said. The budget raises courts’ funding by $129 million, about $86 million of which goes toward trial court operations, and $43 million of which covers increased employee health and pension costs, although the branch estimates the cost increase at around $65 million. It also sends an additional $30 million to backfill a projected $60 million fee revenue shortfall. The budget also allocates $15 million to collaborative courts.

Among other funding for the branch, the state Supreme Court and appellate courts get an increase of $7 million, and a one-time allotment of $40 million goes to the branch’s previously raided court construction program. All told, it’s an increase of about $223 million for the branch. But after the loss of about $1 billion in general fund support over the past six years, and the depletion of branch and court savings, judges say it’s not enough. Miller said court leaders had to get ready to quickly begin pushing for more funding next year, above and beyond an automatic 5 percent increase proposed in the 2014-15 year’s budget – $90 million – for court operations in the 2015-16 fiscal year.