Thursday, May 21, 2009

Now They're Chopping Down The Totem Pole We're the Low Guy On...

In the wake of the vote-down of the Governor's various last-ditch "budget-rescue" bills, the Los Angeles Superior Court has announced that they will be closing all courtrooms one Wednesday per month, commencing in July, and continuing for the next fiscal year.

This is, in a word, not likely to improve the functioning of the family court system, and not likely to make it more responsive to the needs of the public.

As I've noted in these pages earlier, the system is already working short-handed and short-budgeted.

This change will mean that family law court calendars will be, on average, five percent longer, or one or two extra cases, per day, per judge. That may not seem like much, until you consider that family law judges are often already hearing fifteen to twenty cases per day. Assuming a judge is on the bench hearing testimony, or calling calendar, six hours per day (the rest of the time is to READ the reams of stuff) that's a total of 24 minutes per hearing per case. . . . whether or not anyone involved in the matter speaks English, or has brought along a real interpreter. . . . . .and whether or not anyone can coherently explain why they're in court, or what they want the court to do about it...

It means that the time before someone can get into court to address what they, at least, regard as important issues (where their kids stay, with whom; who pays to feed the kids; who stays in the house, when there's been domestic violence etc.) will be on average, five percent longer (custody hearings are already being set two months plus from the date of filing, with support hearings often following along with that delay)

It means, unfortunately, that the job of being a family law judicial officer, already generally recognized as a high-burnout judicial assignment, will be regarded as even less of a "plum", and even more of a "lemon".

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