Wednesday, May 28, 2014

San Diego Superior Court provides no reporters for civil cases--but it's building a brand new courthouse. Justice doesm't seem to be the top priority here.

What is said by the judge and the litigants in Superior Court is a critically important part of the case record.

The court's ability to dispense justice is impaired by the budget-driven decision to stop providing court reporters in civil cases.

But it now seems that the Court's decision to stop paying for court reporters might have been political. It seems that a whole lot of money is available to the San Diego Superior Court, but it's being used to build a new courthouse BEFORE restoring a service as basic as court reporters.

The developers must be very happy--as well as their friends in positions of power.

Now I understand why people have been complaining about car allowances for judges.

Why aren't San Diego Superior Court judges raising their voices in a united, ear-shattering cry for a return to basic court services before building a new courthouse?

Los Angeles Superior Court also stopped providing court reporters in most civil cases:
EFFECTIVE JUNE 14, 2013: The Los Angeles Superior Court will no longer provide court reporters for general jurisdiction civil matters, except in the writs departments – 82, 85 and 86 - located in the Stanley Mosk Courthouse. The writs departments will continue to use the established matrix for court reporter assignments.

$555M courthouse construction beginning

22-story building downtown will replace 1961 county courthouse in 2016
By Roger Showley
Feb. 21, 2014

The new courthouse will rise 22 stories and 389 feet on the block bounded by State, Union, B and C streets. Note top cornice which doubles as a shade structure for the east-facing corridors. — Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

San Diego will break ground next month on its most expensive public office building ever: The $555.5 million, San Diego Central Courthouse.

Funded from increased court fines and fees, the 704,000-square-foot building at Union and C streets downtown will replace the obsolete county courthouse that opened 53 years ago.

“I think, in part, we live in a very different world than when the current buildings we occupy were built,” said David J. Danielsen, presiding judge of the San Diego Superior Court. “I don’t think any of us had any clue way back in the day of the potential danger of asbestos. I don’t think anybody ever designed a building with modern terrorists in mind.”

Due for completion in 2016, the building also breaks the mold in courthouse design. No more Classical columns or bell towers, such as those that existed in earlier San Diego courthouses. This courthouse is a 22-story skyscraper — 389 feet tall...

Judges keep car perks
Despite enormous service cutbacks, Superior Court maintains nearly $1 million in vehicle allowances
By Dave Maass
City Beat
Sep 25, 2012

...“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.

...The court has shut down probate-court operations and a juvenile-dependency courtroom in Vista. The Ramona court facility was shuttered, and six criminal courtrooms and one civil courtroom were closed at the Downtown courthouse. Employees are being forced to take 24 unpaid furlough days during the next two years. The court also plans to close down civil courtrooms in East County and South County, remove court reporters from civil cases and lay off at least 60 employees.

“At a time when we are asking all levels of government to reduce spending, any and all additional perks should be scrutinized for potential savings,” Chris Cate, vice president of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, wrote in an email reacting to CityBeat’s research. “Taking into account total compensation, these car allowances should be the first item eliminated as a means to reduce spending by close to $1 million.”

This is one of the few occasions when the Taxpayers’ Association and public-employee unions are on the same page.

“A benefit such as a car allowance is quite a luxury, especially in these economic times and especially in the public sector in California,” says Michelle Castro, California director of government relations for Service Employees International Union. So far, 27 of the 125 court reporters represented by the union are being laid off...


Anonymous said...

In Sept 2012 court reporters being provided in the courtroom were done away with and many cases moved downtown due to the discontinuation of services at certain branches, ie Probate discontinued in North County.

Many litigants cannot afford court reporters who provide an essential service when it comes to preserving a record of court proceedings. All litigants who had their cases moved are inconvenienced by a longer commute. Those, such as the some of the elderly, don't even have a way to get to a courthouse that may be some distance from them due to difficulty with transportation.

Additionally, claiming how broke they are, the court raised all its fees to milk money for their new courthouse from the public while they cut hours the public can contact the court and cut the staff so service is compromised.

We can now see just how "broke" the court is as it inconveniences people who use their facilities, inhibits justice with the lack of court reporters, etc, meanwhile using their money for conveniences for themselves. It is a further case of political "me, me, me" and one more disgrace to add to the list of corrupt San Diego happenings. SAN DIEGO BE ASHAMED!

Anonymous said...

The first commentor forgot to add that people besides the court reporters lost their jobs with the cutbacks.

Litigants now have very limited hours that they can contact court personnel.

I guess buildings are much more important than people. However it is the very people that are being hurt (litigants) who are paying for this monstrosity.