VIA WEB CONFERENCE—At its July 24 meeting, the Judicial Council approved the allocation of funding to the trial courts included in the fiscal year 2020–21 state budget.

The council used trial court workload as the primary factor to incorporate an ongoing reduction of $167.8 million included in the budget.

The council also voted to use its established workload formula to immediately provide a pro rata distribution of half ($25 million) of the $50 million in one-time funding included in the budget to help courts deal with backlogs caused by COVID-19-related service reductions. Trial courts will provide the council with data on how they spend their share of the $25 million.

The remaining $25 million will be reserved for trial courts experiencing pandemic-related backlogs after the initial round of funding. The council directed its budget committees to develop recommendations on criteria for trial courts to request more funding. The budget committees will then submit those recommendations to the council.

“None of us could have contemplated where we are now with the cuts imposed by COVID-19 and the crisis it has created,” said Judge Jonathan Conklin, chair of the council’s Trial Court Budget Advisory Committee. “But we also thank the Governor and Legislature for the foresight to allocate the $50 million for COVID-19 related backlogs in the courts. We must use these funds as quickly, transparently, and efficiently as possible.”

The council also noted branch funding may need to be adjusted during the year based on state revenues and additional budget reductions stemming from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent recession.

Other items on the council meeting agenda included:

Emergency Rules on Evictions and Foreclosures: In her opening remarks, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye announced the council will soon consider rescinding temporary emergency rules 1 and 2, which could take effect as early as August 14. Those rules suspended court actions on evictions and judicial foreclosures during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Chief Justice’s notice is meant to give the Governor and the Legislature time to consider policy proposals to protect litigants involved in those types of proceedings: “I urge our sister branches to turn their attention to this critical work to protect people from devastating effects of this pandemic and its recent resurgence.”

Budget Change Proposals: The council approved budget change proposals for fiscal year 2021–22 to submit to the state Department of Finance. The proposals include additional funding for capital cases, self-help centers, and courthouse construction and maintenance.

Final Meeting for Council’s Vice-Chair: The council recognized Justice Ming W. Chin, who will retire from the California Supreme Court August 31. Capping a nearly 25-year career on the state high court, his retirement also brings to a close his more than two decades of work for the Judicial Council. “Ming has been a fantastic colleague—smart, wise, visionary, passionate, articulate, and kind,” added Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. “He leaves a legacy of mentorship and inspiration to generations of students, lawyers, and judges. Ming is an iconic example of a jurist and public servant.”

The complete agenda, council reports, and archived webcast from the meeting are posted to the California Courts Meeting Information Center.