Budget cuts are great news if you’re criminal in L.A.:
The Los Angeles court system has already closed 17 courtrooms and another 50 will be shut down come September unless something is done to find more money. The judge who presides over the system predicts chaos and an unprecedented logjam of civil and family law cases in the worst-case scenario.
The crisis results from the financially troubled state’s decision to slash $393 million from state trial courts in the budget this year. The state also decided to close all California courthouses on the third Wednesday of every month.
What has emerged is a hobbled court system that is struggling to serve the public.
Custody hearings, divorce proceedings, small-claims disputes, juvenile dependency matters and civil lawsuits have been delayed amid the courtroom shutdowns in Los Angeles. Drivers who choose to fight traffic tickets now have to wait up to nine months to get a trial started.
Complex civil lawsuits, those typically involving feuding businesses, could really feel the hit. It now takes an average of 16 months for such cases to get resolved, but court officials expect the cuts to bog down these civil matters to the point that they take an average of four years to finish.
“On any given day, 100,000 people go in and out of our courthouses,” said Superior Court Judge Charles W. McCoy Jr., who presides over the Los Angeles system. “That’s a Rose Bowl full of people.”
While this doesn’t mean criminals will go scot-free, it does mean that it will take far longer to try people in court. It also will effectively increase the cost of litigating against someone. Obviously there are a lot of dumb cases that should never make it to court, but at the same time there are a lot of legitimate ones too.
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