California

State/Local Funding

  • The California Judiciary is a state funded system. 
  • The state pays for the salaries of judges, support staff and clerical staff and for trial court technology, operating expenses, local courthouses and equipment.

State Revenue and Appropriations

  • Total state and federal grant appropriations for the California judicial system were reduced from $4 billion in FY12 to $3 billion in FY13.   
  • State general fund appropriations were reduced from $1.7 billion to $730 million.  The percent of state general funds allocated to the judiciary fell from 1.6 % to 0.8% in FY13.
  • The branch weathered a half billion dollar General Fund cut in the fiscal year, though a significant portion was offset by local court fund balances (trial courts have retained the ability to carry over funds from year to year) as well as a redirection of court construction funds to mitigate the General Fund cut.
  • Funding was eliminated for a statewide case management system that was nearing deployment.  Over 70 different case management systems are currently utilized by the courts, some that will need to be replaced in the next 12 months.  This represents a major issue for the branch.  While court construction funds--over a billion dollars--have been used to offset budget cuts over the past four years, some court construction projects are moving ahead.  Ongoing projects and programs will continue to be funded through special funds.
  • The budget situation over the next year is expected to stay relatively the same.

Funding Principles for Judicial Administration

  • The Judicial Branch does not submit its budget request directly to the Legislature.  The Executive Branch conducts a significant review and analysis prior to the Governor releasing his proposed budget.
  • The Judicial Branch does not have the authority to move funds between line items.  The branch has historically been allowed to manage budget reductions within the branch as well as administer branch funds with considerable leeway. Much of that flexibility has been lost and the branch must now work closely, and sometimes seek permission from, the state Department of Finance and/or Legislature when considering certain budget related matters.
  • The California Judiciary currently has the authority to roll over funds to the next fiscal year. 
  • The FY13 budget does not enable the courts to provide for necessary technology nor enhance what they have.  Many courts utilize aging and obsolete technology systems, several of which are expected to need replacing this year.  Most courts do not offer e-filing.

Steps Taken to Address Tough Economic Times

Staffing Levels and Operating Expenses:  Over the past four years, while the number of judges has remained the same, the number of trial court staff has decreased by 10%, the number of central office staff have decreased by 30% and the amount available for trial court expenses has decreased by 5%.  This coming year, the number of judges will remain the same, the number of trial court staff will decrease by 10%, the number of central office staff will decrease 10% and spending on trial court operating expenses will decrease 5%.

Service Reductions:  Over the past four years, the California courts have reduced hours of operation, imposed staff layoffs, delayed filling vacancies in the clerk’s offices and in judicial support positions, reduced the use of retired judges, and delayed jury trials.  They have eliminated vacant staff positions and have restricted travel.  These reductions will continue in the coming year. 

Impact of Service Reductions:  These reductions have resulted in reduced service to the public, limited access to court services, produced delays and backlogs in the disposition of cases and diverted resources from civil to other mandatory case types.

Compensation:  Over the past four years, some of the trial courts have frozen and reduced the salaries of judicial officers and court staff.  Some courts have furloughed court staff; one court furloughed court staff 40 days a year.  Some courts will continue these steps this fiscal year.

Efficiency Measures:  Self-Help Centers--At the state level, the AOC administers an online Self Help Center and allocates funding to support self help centers at the local level.  While considerable investment was made into developing a statewide case management system (which included document management, electronic workflow, e-citations, etc.), this project was terminated earlier this year.  Current priorities are focusing on maintaining existing systems.

Restructuring:  The courts have reallocated staff and made use of part-time and off-hours workers, but actions in this area have been limited, based on the palatability of these actions.

Centralization:  The courts have centralized collections processing.

Commissions:  A working group was established in October, 2012 to review implementation of state trial court funding and whether this legislation has met its intended goals.

The California Courts are in a worse position than in FY09 to provide access and timely justice.

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