gavel.jpgCalifornia Attorney General Kamala Harris told a rally of several hundred lawyers, judges, court workers and citizens in San Francisco today that courts are vital to ensure that “every voice is heard and has equal weight.”

“We need a place where we can go and make sure that concept is there,” Harris said at a noontime protest at City Hall that was organized by the Bar Association of San Francisco to advocate adequate funding for state courts.

The attorney general was one of a dozen speakers at the event, entitled “Stand Up for Justice.” An array of about 30 judges in dark business suits, most from Superior Court, stood behind the speakers at the top of the City Hall steps.

Harris said she knows that “it’s tough in Sacramento” because of the state’s budget crisis.

But she said, “We must in these difficult economic times not lose sight of some of the most fundamental responsibilities and priorities.”

“One of them is making sure that all people have a voice in our courtroom,” she said.

Harris and other speakers said court closures and reductions caused by budget cuts hurt domestic violence victims seeking the protection of restraining orders, tenants who want to fight evictions and children waiting to be adopted.

“The doors of the courts must stay open to serve the people,” said retired California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno.

“The courts desperately need our support,” he said.

“We simply cannot stand back when cut after cut is made to the courts’ budget. When the last cut is made, all the laws in the land will have no meaning” because courts won’t be there to enforce the laws, Moreno said.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said his day began at 5 a.m. with a commemoration of the 1906 earthquake, and warned, “There’s another earthquake coming if we don’t deal with providing justice in our courts.”

Signs carried by the crowd indicated that rally participants came from several dozen Bay Area bar groups, law firms and legal aid organizations, as well as the Service Employees International Union, which represents court clerks.

A similar rally organized by the Los Angeles County Bar Association was held in Los Angeles in January.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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