Deep Cuts To Court Funding Make CA Chief Justice “afraid to see the future”

The chief justices of California, Texas and New York and three federal judges deplored funding cuts and other roadblocks to public access to justice at an American Bar Association meeting in San Francisco Thursday.

California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said she had reluctantly supported some increases in court fees as “desperate measures” in the face of deep funding cuts that have resulted in the closure of 40 courthouses and 77 courtrooms statewide.

“When it comes to keeping courts open, if these aren’t desperate measures, I’m afraid to see the future,” she said.

Cantil-Sakauye and the five other judges spoke at a session entitled “Are Courts Dying? The Decline of Open and Public Adjudication” on the first day of the ABA’s annual meeting at Moscone Center West.

About 8,000 lawyers and guests are attending the meeting, which continues through Tuesday.

The judges said public access to courts is impaired not only by funding cuts but also by the high cost of lawyers in civil cases and the so-called “outsourcing” of adjudication.

Examples of outsourcing, they said, are the use of private judges for those who can afford it and the use of mandatory, closed-door arbitration instead of open courts to resolve consumer disputes.

“There are reports that 75 percent of the people in our state can’t afford a lawyer” in civil cases, said Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson.

“There are people who have been denied their rights who will just give up,” he said.

U.S. District Judge Norma Shapiro of Philadelphia and retired U.S. District Judge Royal Furgeson of Dallas said funding cuts are hurting federal as well as state courts.

They said the current U.S. budget sequestration is resulting in reductions in federal public defenders, limits on auxiliary services such as probation supervision and delays in needed technology upgrades.

“This is the 50th anniversary of Gideon,” said Shapiro, referring to the landmark 1963 Gideon v. Wainwright Supreme Court decision requiring states to provide lawyers to criminal defendants who can’t afford one.
“If this continues, there won’t be anyone to hear Gideon’s trumpet,” she said.

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman of the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in that state, suggested the Gideon approach of publicly paid lawyers should be applied to some civil cases. He proposed that other changes, such as greater use of expert non-lawyers, should also be considered.

“Lots of people are unable to access the justice system,” Lippman said.

“We have a real problem in the courts in our cities, states and country. We’re going to have to figure it out,” he said.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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  • Zeigeist

    Good not like if the “public” has actual access to justice. The only people accessing this corrupt court houses were the special interests, the rich, the very poor and the masses amount of people being accused of crimes.

    Al to most of us, these court houses are a far reach and justice denied at every level. Lets not talk about the 9th Circuit court of Appeals this one is the biggest joke. In the 9th Cir. if you are a pro se you have not rights and not right to an appeal. Every single pro se appeal is denied and there never is a review by a judge panel. The appeals go through a “Pro se Task Force” made up of clerks and intern attorneys who do not know anything about laws. In the manuals they are given different options on how to deny every single pro se appeal.

    Not that the lower federal courts or state courts are any different they are all the same. So in the end Justice has ALWAYS been denied for the average Joe,

  • Zeigeist

    Good not like if the “public” has actual access to justice. The only people accessing this corrupt court houses were the special interests, the rich, the very poor and the masses amount of people being accused of crimes.

    Al to most of us, these court houses are a far reach and justice denied at every level. Lets not talk about the 9th Circuit court of Appeals this one is the biggest joke. In the 9th Cir. if you are a pro se you have not rights and not right to an appeal. Every single pro se appeal is denied and there never is a review by a judge panel. The appeals go through a “Pro se Task Force” made up of clerks and intern attorneys who do not know anything about laws. In the manuals they are given different options on how to deny every single pro se appeal.

    Not that the lower federal courts or state courts are any different they are all the same. So in the end Justice has ALWAYS been denied for the average Joe,

  • njudah

    if you live in SF and file for divorce, you’re going to be waiting for a few years before that gets settled thanks to the state cuts….fun fun fun.

  • njudah

    if you live in SF and file for divorce, you’re going to be waiting for a few years before that gets settled thanks to the state cuts….fun fun fun.