(January 18, 2012) A rally to support adequate court funding in California is being held today from noon to 1:30 p.m. in downtown Los Angeles. Since 2008, funding for the courts has been cut by nearly 30 percent in the state resulting in layoffs, shuttered courtrooms and long delays in civil justice. Without adequately funded state courts, most Californians will have limited access to justice with dire consequences for the state’s communities.
To hear some of state leaders speak about the court funding crisis, click here to watch a video.
The California Chamber of Commerce has long been a vocal advocate for adequate court funding – stressing that an efficient court system is necessary to support California’s economy. Since 1996, CalChamber has been a member of the California Commission on Access to Justice.
CalChamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg often refers to Italy’s broken court system which has resulted in greatly reduced investments in the economy.
“A fully funded court system is essential to growing California’s economy,” said CalChamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg. “Without it, business disputes will go unresolved, causing greater uncertainty and creating yet another barrier to job creation in our state.”
“California businesses have a vested interest in ensuring our court system is adequately funded,” said Erika Frank, CalChamber Vice President and General Counsel. “Whether it is a business owner trying to resolve a contract dispute or an employee who needs to take time off to resolve a personal matter, an underfunded and inefficient court system hurts everyone’s pocketbook.”
In November 2011, CalChamber co-sponsored a series of hearings across California that demonstrated the fundamental role of the courts and legal assistance in society and explored the devastating effects, especially for low-income Californians, of chronic underfunding and recent budget cuts.
Today’s rally is sponsored by the Open Courts Coalition Committee and will include supportive prepared statements or comments by the following individuals:
- Allan Zaremberg – President and CEO, CalChamber
- Paul R. Kiesel – Partner, Kiesel, Boucher & Larson
- Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye - Chief Justice of California
- Former Governor Gray Davis
- Senator Joseph Dunn (Ret.) - State Bar of California
- Assemblyman Michael Feuer - Member of the California State Assembly
- Peter Glaessner - President, California Defense Counsel
- Deborah Kelly - Directing Attorney of the Domestic Violence Project
- Niall McCarthy - President, Consumer Attorneys of California
- Justice Carlos Moreno - Former California Supreme Court Justice
- Gary Paul - President, American Association for Justice
- Representative of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
- Jon Streeter - President, California State Bar
- Hernan Vera - President, Public Counsel
- Eric Webber - President, Los Angeles County Bar Association
In addition to the harm caused by proposed court budget cuts, legislation awaiting action by the full Assembly will also inflate businesses’ liability costs if passed.
AB 1208 (C. Calderon; D-Montebello), which is opposed by the CalChamber, creates uncertainty, inefficiency and unpredictability for litigants, further aggravating California’s reputation as a bad place to do business, by decentralizing control of trial court funds.
The bill goes far beyond increasing the fiscal accountability of the judicial branch, and instead blurs the separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branches. AB 1208 will undermine uniformity of the laws and rules governing state courts and harm statewide court programs, creating uncertainty and unpredictability for California employers and other litigants, and driving more employers from the state and harming the economy.
Other problems with AB 1208 include:
- Grants the Legislature inappropriate influence over management of the judicial branch, including prioritizing funding and making substantive decisions about how to promote efficiencies and cost saving measures, and ensure equal access to justice.
- Allows two to three courts to override important judicial branch policies and statewide needs.
- Prevents helping courts in dire emergencies. By requiring the Judicial Council to allocate every dollar that is appropriated for trial court operations, the bill eliminates the ability of the Judicial Council to set aside money to assist courts dealing with especially difficult fiscal circumstances.
- Allows a single court to benefit at the expense of the entire justice system. For example, a court could choose to keep extra funds to upgrade its facilities, preventing the branch from using those resources to provide legal services for the poor system-wide or prevent court shut-downs at a court facing greater financial hardship.