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Cuts in the Court System Budget

Recently the California State Legislature passed a budget which called for massive cuts in the funding for California’s court system. These spending cuts will no doubt cause many litigants to have justice delayed or even denied altogether. Hundreds of clerks in the San Francisco County court system have been given lay-off notices.

Many people in today’s environment are unsympathetic. Often commentators speak of the government having too many employees that don’t work hard enough and a few less won’t make any difference. Those talking heads are quite simply wrong.

Most of the court clerks and employees are hard working individuals who have to meet the public on a daily basis, working with them to solve their problems. Those problems come from citizens who are usually unhappy in the first place with being in court. No one enjoys coming to court to pay a traffic ticket, deal with the dissolution of their marriage or contemplate being evicted from their home or business. Yet this is the daily work load of these employees who are being terminated from their jobs. Once these trained individuals are gone who will get the people’s business done?

Funding the court system is important in maintaining the civility of our society. If citizens can’t get problems resolved in an orderly and timely fashion the rules by which we all agree to live get ignored. For example, if a traffic ticket is wrongfully issued but the driver can never get into a courtroom to have a judge hear his side of the story, respect for the police diminishes, more people will ignore the rules of the road since the ticket may not be litigated for years, and ultimately we are a poorer society for it.

The court system and the respect individual citizens have for the rule of law is what makes a society free. Without the ability of a citizen to come into court and have a fair hearing for civil and criminal trials, the wronged party may take the law into his own hands. From freedom of speech, to the right to a fair trial, to the ability to get divorced, to every manner of complaint, the courts need to be adequately funded to preserve all of our rights and freedoms.