Tuesday, October 9, 2012

San Diego Judges keep car perks

Judges shouldn't have their compensation cut. There is no fat to cut in the courts, but slabs of it are kept out of sight in other agencies. The State Parks and Recreation Department was caught sitting on $54 Million in extra funds while 70 state parks across California struggled to stay open. Since the Parks Department only had a $22 million budget shortfall, that leaves $32 million that could be given to the courts. Furthermore, I think judges' pay should be raised; then we could replace some of the floundering judges with more competent jurists.

Judges keep car perks
By Dave Maass
City Beat
Sep 25, 2012

Through a summer-long media blitz, San Diego County Superior Court officials warned the public about drastic, near-cataclysmic reductions in services on the horizon.

“The cuts envisioned by our budget reduction plan will affect every judge, court employee and ultimately the litigants, court users and citizens in San Diego County,” Presiding Judge Robert Trentacosta said in a June statement. “These cuts will significantly reduce or eliminate access to our court system and are devastating to those of us who have worked so hard to convince the Governor and Legislature that such cuts threaten the stability of our third branch of government.”

The California budget crisis has trickled down to the local justice level, with the San Diego County court looking to make up a $33-million shortfall in what had been a $190-million budget. The court was ordered to drain its rainy-day reserves—roughly $22 million—leaving $11 million left to slice in the coming fiscal year, with even bigger cuts predicted in the next cycles.

As fall arrives, the court has begun shutting down outlying courtrooms, shortening hours, laying off some employees and furloughing others.

But the Superior Court did not cut one line item: nearly $1 million per year in transportation allowances set aside for judges and executive managers.

San Diego judges each receive $572 per month ($6,864 annually) in car stipends, while the presiding judge, assistant presiding judge and supervising judges each collect $674 per month ($8,088 annually).

Between the 126 current judges, that’s $903,427 per year in vehicle allowances. Nine administrators collected a combined $59,472 per year, bringing the figure to $962,899. Another $8,281 was reimbursed for out-of-county travel.

The 24-year-old practice is particular to San Diego County as a carryover from when the county government paid for the courts and the benefit was tied to the Board of Supervisors’ compensation package. Now, the state funds the court, and there’s no mandate from Sacramento to provide these vehicle allowances...

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