Courts & Crime

Judge warns of backlog as California closes courts to save money

A Sacramento judge who fought the once-a-month court closures approved earlier this week by the state Judicial Council said Thursday the action is unwarranted locally and will result in monstrous new backlogs.

Superior Court Judge Maryanne G. Gilliard said the state could have made up the $94.3 million saved with the closures by cutting the Judicial Council's operational arm, the Administrative Office of the Courts, and scrapping a $1.1 billion computer system that many local judges have harshly criticized.

"I think that statewide closure of the courts by order of the Judicial Council is unprecedented and, beyond that, is unwarranted, especially in light of the fact that there are obvious areas in the AOC's own budget that could have been tapped in order to not restrict the public's constitutional right of access to their courts," Gilliard said in an interview in her chambers.

"This was an unnecessary order," she said.

The judge blasted the growth of the court administrative office's budget from $100 million to $177 million over the past five years and its increase in employees from 491 to 785. Agency officials have defended the increases as a reflection of their taking over executive authority for court operations throughout the state.

Gilliard said that as many as 20 county court systems in the state, including Sacramento's, have the resources to stay in operation and avoid the closures.

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