Marin Superior Court Gets $3M Cut in State Funding

State's Judicial Council adopts the allocation of operating funds for the 58 county-based superior courts for the 2013-14 fiscal year, which began July 1, with Marin among those counties seeing a cut.

Marin County Superior Court. Patch photo.
Marin County Superior Court. Patch photo.

The governing body of California courts approved a $1.6 billion allocation of baseline funding for the state's trial courts last week, using the first phase of a new formula for dividing up funds and effectively trimming funding for Marin County Superior Court by more than $3 million for 2013-2014 fiscal year.

The allocation of operating funds for the 58 county-based superior courts for the 2013-14 fiscal year, which began July 1, was adopted by the state Judicial Council at a meeting in San Francisco. The $1.6 billion is about two-thirds of this year's total funding of $2.5 billion for the trial courts, which have sustained deep financial cuts during several years of state budget crises.

The remainder of the trials courts' total budget comes from separate state allocations to pay for items such as interpreters, jury costs and court-appointed lawyers for children.

The baseline funding includes $60 million restored to trial court budget by the Legislature in May.

But the restored amount, which court system chief fiscal officer Zlatko Theodorovic described as "a drop in the bucket" at one point in the meeting, still leaves the superior courts $201 million short of the amount received last year, on top of previous cuts of $214 million.

For instance, Marin Superior Court's allocation from the Trial Court Trust Fund is being reduced from $15,911,599 in 2012-2013 to $12,895,109 for 2013-2014, according to a report on the allocations prepared for the Judicial Council. Marin's court has a total annual budget of about $20 million.

The state's budget snapshot for Marin Superior Court indicates that staffing levels began declining in 2007-08, increasing backlogs by an additional week to 10 days for things like new case filings, court orders and judgments, filings and pleadings in court files records management reviews—"tasks that the court was current on prior to the reductions."

In February 2010, Marin County Superior Court laid off six employees to help close a budget gap of approximately $2 million, according to a report in the Marin Independent Journal.

The state's new allocation formula, developed by an advisory committee of judges and court executives, takes account of varying court workloads that may have changed in recent years because of population growth or other factors.

The previous formula, used for the past 15 years, was based primarily on the share each superior court had in 1998, the year the state government took over court funding from the individual counties. That approach didn't keep up with increased court workloads in counties where the population grew faster.

The new method is being phased in slowly. For this year, the council applied it to 10 percent of the baseline funding. Another 10 percent will be added each year for the next four years until the new formula is used to allocate half of the funding, while the previous formula will be applied to the other half.

Any new funding provided by the Legislature will also be divided up according to the new formula. The $60 million granted in May is considered new funding, and so that amount was also allocated according to the new formula.

California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who chairs the council, described the new formula "as a more equitable distribution model" for the trial courts.

"How our limited funding is allocated affects every court and every court user, as up and down our state we continue to see courthouse closures, reduced hours, and staff layoffs and furloughs," Cantil-Sakauye said in a statement.

Although all county superior courts will receive less money than last year, some will incur greater and others smaller reductions as a result of the new formula.

Within the Bay Area, the Contra Costa, Monterey, Solano and Sonoma county superior courts will receive slightly more funding than they would have under the old formula.

The gains range from $43,000 for Contra Costa County Superior Court, out of total baseline funding of $35 million, to $103,000 for the Solano County Superior Court, out of a total baseline funding of $17 million.

Along with Marin, county superior courts that will have greater reductions than they would have had under the previous formula include Alameda, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz.

Alameda, San Francisco and Santa Clara will each lose between $500,000 and $700,000 under the first phase of the new formula.

The total current allocations for those three superior courts are $73 million, $54 million and $74 million, respectively.

The Judicial Council is made up of 15 judges, four lawyers and two legislators.

–Bay City News Service contributed to this report. Copyright © 2013 by Bay City News, Inc. – Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

Tina McMillan July 28, 2013 at 11:02 PM
So last year Marin County doubled its park's budget and this year they are deficit spending in the court's. It seems like the practical aspects of life get little attention. =============== ========================================== Parks and Open Space have a huge private donor base but who will donate money to maintain our court system let alone fund any tax increase to sustain it? Until you need the courts you don't think about the cost. In the Family Court System where mediation is used to help with custody issues in divorce there are three experienced mediators where there use to be four or five. It's time our supervisors sat down and took a realistic look at what it takes to keep this county running. Cutting back funding for courts is not the answer.
Tina McMillan July 29, 2013 at 12:37 PM
Fly: When you use the same email but change your name the posts still come up under one account. I believe your last incarnation was Likes Facts. Thought you might be interested.
J D Harris July 29, 2013 at 12:50 PM
County supervisors and other Marin officials have no control over the Marin Superior Court's budgetary or other operations, including human resources. The court is state funded and controlled.
Me Ma !! July 29, 2013 at 01:11 PM
Tina, It was Talk Facts as I always do. Do you really think anyone is interested in what you say or do after you took all our e mail addresses to save the value of our homes and delivered nothing to any of us
Tina McMillan July 29, 2013 at 01:30 PM
Funding for courts is complex. We use to have mediation that was funded through the county. We cut that service at a tremendous loss to the community. "California collaborative justice courts (CJC) receive funding from federal, state, and local sources. The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) Collaborative Justice Program is a key partner in the administration of many of these statewide grant initiatives." ========================================== http://www.courts.ca.gov/ ========================================== There is a budget crisis in the judicial court system. We need Supervisors to lobby state representatives to explain the harm done.
Tina McMillan July 29, 2013 at 01:39 PM
"Rally Calls Attention to Critical Role of Court Funding to California’s Economy" "(January 18, 2012) A rally to support adequate court funding in California is being held today from noon to 1:30 p.m. in downtown Los Angeles. Since 2008, funding for the courts has been cut by nearly 30 percent in the state resulting in layoffs, shuttered courtrooms and long delays in civil justice. Without adequately funded state courts, most Californians will have limited access to justice with dire consequences for the state’s communities."=============================== ======================================== We have focused so much attention on issues outside of the necessities that basic services continue to be reduced. That attention in Marin has focused primarily on Parks and Open Space (last years sales tax measure) and Community Choice Aggregation (otherwise known as Marin Energy Authority). When we were looking to acquire more land and get into the business of purchasing energy we spent $30million dollars on a computer system, ironically known as SAP that failed repeatedly, that the civil grand jury admonished and then it still took another year and a half for the county to act. ============ There is only so much people can do when public officials keep asking for more money. It's time the county refocused their energy on basic priorities and lobbied the state for funding for the courts.
John Parnell July 30, 2013 at 02:18 PM
Fly Fisherman aka Likes Facts aka many other pseudonyms: I don't think too many people care what you say or which fake name you post under - you're a troll either way & don't seem to have the courage to sign your name to your vitriolic words.


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