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Courts seek support for one-day-a-month closure

The Board of Governors unanimously voted to support cost-cutting measures proposed by the Administrative Office of the Courts, including shuttering all state courthouses one day a month.

Ron Overholt, the AOC’s chief deputy director, told the board the move could save $70 million in salaries at the trial courts and another $23 million in security costs. Work furloughs are not automatic and will require labor negotiations.

The courts face a $400 million cutback, a reduction Overholt called unprecedented. “This is a proposal none of us ever thought we’d make, but the gravity of the situation is such that it’s a step we must take,” he said. At the same time, the courts will proceed with construction or renovation of courthouses, funded by a $5 billion construction bond approved last year.

Overholt said the AOC anticipates closures would occur on a Wednesday, when they would have the least impact on filings and jail overcrowding.

Not waiting for the AOC to act, the Los Angeles Superior Court announced it will close the third Wednesday each month, beginning July 15. The move, expected to save $18 million, will affect 600 courtrooms and more than 5,000 employees.

The largest court system in the country, Los Angeles faces an $89.9 million deficit in fiscal year 2009-10. Presiding Judge Charles W. (Tim) McCoy warned that the furlough may not be enough to avert employee layoffs and eventual closure of entire courthouses if the budget climate does not improve markedly by 2011.

The court approved a plan that could result in job losses for a quarter of the court’s 5,400 employees within the next four years.

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