SCVNEWS is reporting that Santa Clarita City Council members are asking Los Angeles County court officials to restore court services locally citing cost, convenience and a decision to delay construction on a new Santa Clarita Valley courthouse indefinitely.
However, court officials feel that residents need to get use to fewer services in the coming year, and the restoration of previous fiscal cuts does not seem likely.
Mike Murphy, intergovernmental relations officer for the city, says, “What the (City Council) wants is to get the full range of court services be provided here in the Santa Clarita Valley”
Three main areas that affect residents surfaced at an Oct. 9 meeting where issues were brought to council members.
The members addressed a letter to Judge Steven Jahr, who oversees the Administrative Office of the Courts, asking his office to take another look at the state’s decision on a new, full service courthouse in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Small matters such as minor issues of jurisprudence, reporting for jury service, as well as the handling of small claims and civil cases, are currently split between San Fernando and Chatsworth courthouses. Previously, these issues were handled by the Santa Clarita courthouse.
According to Mary Hearn, spokeswoman for Los Angeles County Superior Court, the public should expect a reduction in services as the court system tries to deal with a shrinking budget.
She also says that the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts would have to decide on a new courthouse as it is responsible for deciding the court’s spending priorities.
While county court officials had to deal with a $30 million budget reduction starting in July, the local reductions were not all motivated by cost.
Hearn explained the consolidation of civil and small claims caseloads to the Chatsworth courthouse was meant for efficiency, not to cut cost as they had the staff to better handle these cases.
Law enforcement officials have stated that the reduction in budget has affected law enforcement resources. When detectives and deputies need to review cases or evidence, trips to the San Fernando Valley can eat up valuable time and resources, according to Lt. Brenda Cambra of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station.
And it seems that things could get even tighter as budget projections for the court system look bleak. “We’re looking at further cutting services,” Hearn said. “Somewhere between $54 million on the low end and $82 million on the high end” were the estimates given for the budget reduction facing the county’s courts in the next fiscal year.
Hearn added that the projections were based on the passage of Proposition 30, which means that the deficit could be even worse if Gov. Jerry Brown’s ballot measure calling for sales-tax and income-tax hikes don’t pass on Tuesday’s ballot.
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