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MCLE Self-Assessment Test

Brown’s new proposal adds $160 million to state court spending

By Laura Ernde
Staff Writer

With weeks to go before the state budget is due to be finalized, California courts appear likely to receive a significant boost in funding. But it's unclear whether the increase will be enough to prevent continued court closures.

The judicial branch was among the few state entities to receive a boost in state funding in Gov. Jerry Brown’s revised budget last month. Brown’s new spending plan released May 13 called for a $160 million increase in court funding, up from $100 million he called for in January. In addition, he promised to match a 5 percent increase for the trial courts next year.

The state legislature showed support for a more significant budget increase. Senate and Assembly budget subcommittee voted separately last month to give the courts an additional $280 million. Legislative leaders are expected to negotiate a final deal with Brown by June 15.

Brown’s proposal fell short of what Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye has said it would take to fully fund the courts – an added $1.2 billion over three years. Still, she called the revised budget “encouraging because it identifies additional funding and recognizes the need for fiscal stability with a creative proposal for a two-year budgeting formula for the trial courts.”

Responding to Brown’s call for running the courts more efficiently, Cantil-Sakauye said she is launching a blue ribbon commission on the future of the courts later this year.

Likewise, State Bar President Luis J. Rodriguez praised the governor for recognizing the need for additional funds for the judicial branch.

“Gov. Brown is tasked with preserving the financial health of our state while providing necessary funding for services crucial to the well-being of the people of California. With this latest funding proposal for the courts, Gov. Brown has shown that he is committed to access to justice,” Rodriguez said. “We are also deeply committed to the chief justice’s ongoing efforts to increase access to justice, as she continues her efforts to find more efficient ways to deliver justice to California’s population.”

Brown’s newest budget proposal came shortly after he negotiated a deal with the legislature to pay down the state’s debt and set aside money for the next economic downturn. The May revision also incorporated more than $2 billion in added costs for things such as providing health care coverage under Medi-Cal, emergency drought assistance and mandated education funding.