SAN FRANCISCO—On the second day of its two-day public meeting on August 26, the Judicial Council approved recommendations from its Court Facilities Advisory Committee that the schedules of active new courthouse projects be modified and put on hold until adequate funding can be restored. (video)
Construction fund redirections made by the Governor and Legislature during the state’s fiscal crisis—and a decline in funds from reduced case filings and traffic amnesty—have dramatically cut funds available to replace substandard court facilities.
“At first, money was taken for trial court operations and went to keep courts open,” said Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, chair of the Judicial Council. “As time unfolded, [the redirections] became loans, and when the recession got deeper, the loans turned into takings. We find ourselves now in a place where the money has not returned, filings are down, and amnesty has changed our financial reality.”
The council’s action follows a recent facilities committee meeting where 16 local courts gave presentations on the current state of their inadequate and unsafe facilities in an effort to preserve their local “immediate and critical need” courthouse projects. The recommendations approved by the council today also call for its continued advocacy for the restoration of funding for these important and desperately-needed new courthouses.
“The days of being able to limp along are over,” said Justice Brad Hill, chair of the advisory committee. “We are out of money and there is nothing we can do at this point, short of getting that money back.”
See the California Courts Newsroom for a map of the affected projects, video, and additional materials highlighting the need for new courthouses.
Other items on the Aug. 26 council meeting agenda included:
Budget Proposals for Judicial Branch: The council approved 18 fiscal year 2017–18 budget change proposals and their corresponding priority ranking for the judicial branch. The council amended the first proposal to provide future flexibility regarding how funding for court employee compensation would be allocated, as well as moved proposals to increase funding for court facility operation costs to higher up on the priority list. Part of the annual state budget process, the council must submit the proposals to the Department of Finance by September 2. (video)
Funding for Courthouse Modifications and Repairs: The council approved a recommendation from its Trial Court Facility Modification Advisory Committee to allocate the $65 million appropriated by the Legislature for trial court facility modifications in the fiscal year 2016–2017 State Budget. The funding supports facility modification planning and facility modifications for emergency and critical needs. Despite the money included in this year’s budget, program funding does not meet the overall maintenance needs of the courts. (video)
Study Says Risk and Needs Assessments Work: The council received a report on the California Risk Assessment Pilot Project. The project explored how evidence-based practices, including the use of risk and needs assessment information, can reduce recidivism and improve public safety. The report found that the use of risk and needs assessment tools in the pilot counties served as a good predictor of future noncompliant behavior and can inform the courts and probation departments regarding the most effective supervision terms and conditions to improve outcomes for adult felony probationers.
Numbers from Criminal Justice Realignment: The council received data collected from trial courts on the implementation of the 2011 [Criminal Justice] Realignment Legislation. Collected annually, the data helps the judicial branch determine each court's new workload due to realignment, as measured by the total petitions filed to revoke and/or modify postrelease community supervision and parole.
The council’s actions and presentations from the first day of its two-day meeting on August 25 are highlighted on the California Courts Newsroom.
An archived videocast of the entire meeting broken out by topic will be available on the council’s meeting information webpage.