Cantil-Sakauye: Budget Cuts Reduce Access to Justice

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SAN FRANCISCO — California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye on Jan. 9 issued the following statement in response to Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed 2014-2015 Budget Act:

“I appreciate the governor’s fiscal prudence as well as his recognition of the need for reinvestment in the judicial branch, and I will continue my discussions with the governor, stressing the critical unmet needs of the branch.

California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye announces “The 3-Year Blueprint for Fully Functional Judicial Branch” in Sacramento. (Photo by Christian Feng)

California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye announces “The 3-Year Blueprint for Fully Functional Judicial Branch” in Sacramento. (Photo by Christian Feng)

“The judicial branch has undergone $1 billion in cuts during the last six years. Californians rely on a fully functioning court system to protect their constitutional rights, secure protective orders, resolve child custody issues, and settle business disputes.

“I hope to continue this productive dialogue with the executive and legislative branches in the next few months about the needs of those who rely on our courts. Access to justice must be meaningful, universal, and fair — it’s a fundamental right in a functioning democracy.”

According to Cantil-Sakauye, 205 courtrooms and 51 courthouses have been closed, and people are often forced to drive long distances just to have their day in court.

On Jan. 14, Cantil-Sakauye was joined by court users and leaders, legislators, labor groups, and other justice system partners on the steps of the Stanley Mosk Library and Courts Building in Sacramento to launch “The Three-Year Blueprint for Fully Functional Judicial Branch.”

The introduction to the blueprint reads, “California’s state court system, the largest in the nation, serves 38 million people. Unprecedented budget cuts since 2008 hamper the people’s access to justice. Only one penny of every General Fund dollar supports California’s courts — not enough to sustain a fully functioning system.

“In 2013, courts struggled to maintain services while absorbing a cut of nearly a half-billion dollars. One-time sources that softened past cuts are gone. We need a reinvestment in justice.”

The blueprint outlines a three-year plan to restore and improve access to justice in California by focusing on four core elements:

• Implement access (physical, remote, and equal access)

• Close the trial court funding gap

• Provide critically needed judgeships

• Modernize court technology

To download a copy, go to www.courts.ca.gov/documents/JudicialBranchBlueprint.pdf.

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