gavel.jpgCalifornia Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye warned in San Francisco today that the latest cuts in the budget for state courts “pose grave risks to public services.”

The budget announced by Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislators on Monday includes cuts of $350 million to the state court system.

It also includes a transfer of $300 million intended for courthouse construction and renovation to the state’s general fund.

Brown and Democratic leaders reached the budget deal to close a $9.6 billion deficit after failing to win Republican votes for temporary tax extensions or a public vote on tax extensions.

Cantil-Sakauye said, “I am completely dismayed and gravely concerned about how the proposed budget cuts will affect the judicial branch and the public we serve.

“The cumulative impact of the cuts to the courts in the last three years will have the effect of court closures, fewer services to court users, and the specter of more furloughs and layoffs for employees,” she said.

The California court system – the largest in the United States – encompasses the 58 county superior courts, six regional appeals courts, the state Supreme Court and the Administrative Office of the Courts.

Its total budget is $3.8 billion, court spokeswoman Lynn Holton said.

Holton said the final decision on how the courts will absorb the cuts will be made by the state Judicial Council, the governing body of the court system, at a public meeting.

As chief justice, Cantil-Sakauye heads both the state Supreme Court and the Judicial Council, both of which are based in San Francisco.

In the 2009-10 fiscal year, all state courts were closed one day per month for 10 months because of budget cuts made for that year.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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