Council to Consider Updating Funding Formula for Trial Courts
The Judicial Council at its January 12 business meeting will consider recommendations on how it divides annual state funding for the judicial branch among each of the state’s 58 trial courts based on the workload at each court.
The council’s Trial Court Budget Advisory Committee proposed the recommendations to make its Workload-Based Allocation and Funding Methodology (WAFM) more stable and predictable, and lessen any negative impacts on courts who experience large cuts to their budgets in lean funding years.
Among the proposals, the committee recommends eliminating the historical funding base that implemented WAFM gradually over the previous five fiscal years, and instead establish base allocations each year based on a court’s funding level the prior year. The committee also proposes to continue reporting workload every fiscal year based on a three-year average of filings data to respond to local changes in court workload.
Other items on the council meeting agenda include:
Reporting Case Processing Statistics: The council will consider a recommendation to revise statistical reporting definitions for the Judicial Branch Statistical Information System (JBSIS), which defines and electronically collects information from trial court case management systems for each major case processing area of the court. These statistics help the council calculate the workload-based funding need for each court.
Interpreters in Small Claims Actions: The council will consider sponsoring proposed legislation to clarify that courts are to provide qualified interpreters, subject to available court resources, in small claims actions. The proposed legislation would also provide judicial officers with discretion to appoint a temporary interpreter if they are unable to secure a certified/registered or provisionally qualified interpreter.
Ability-to-Pay Determinations: The council will consider a proposal for two new forms court users would complete to request a determination of their ability-to-pay court fines in traffic and other infraction cases.
Education for Judges and Court Staff: The council will consider its next two-year education plan for developing and delivering education to the judicial branch. The plan includes all in-person and online programs and courses for judicial officers and appellate and trial court management and staff.
Courthouse Closures or Reduced Hours: Per statute and its normal meeting procedures, the council will receive a report on which trial courts have closed courtrooms or clerks’ offices or reduced clerks’ office hours because of budget challenges. Since the previous report, three superior courts—Alameda, Modoc, Stanislaus, and Sierra Counties—have issued new notices of closures or reductions.