Governor’s Proposed Budget Brings Some Good News for Courts
Governor Brown has released his proposed budget and there appears to be some good news for the courts. COCRA will be monitoring the budget situation to assess whether the proposed budget will benefit court reporters.
Here are the significant adjustments to the judicial budget proposed by the governor.
Trial Court Funding
Consistent with the proposed two‐year strategy, the Budget includes an augmentation of $90.1 million General Fund to support trial court operations.
Trial Court Employee Costs
The Budget includes $42.7 million General Fund for trial court employee benefit costs, of which $10.8 million reflects funding for trial courts that have now made progress towards meeting the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013 standard. The Administration is committed to funding future increases related to existing health benefits and retirement costs for trial court employees and retirees.
Trial Court Trust Fund Revenues
The Budget includes an additional $19.8 million General Fund to reflect a further reduction of fines and penalty revenues in 2015‐16. Coinciding with this adjustment, the Administration proposes permanently extending temporary fines and penalty revenue measures enacted as part of the 2012 Budget Act.
With the passage of Proposition 47 in November 2014, it is anticipated that trial courts will experience increased workload primarily in the early years of implementation due to the requirement that courts reclassify certain drug and theft crimes that involve less than $950 from felonies to misdemeanors.
The Budget includes $26.9 million General Fund to reflect a projected increase in trial court workload.
The Budget proposes the establishment of an 18‐month outstanding delinquent debt amnesty program that would be administered by the courts and counties. Courts and counties would recover their costs to administer the amnesty program utilizing revenues collected through the program.
Dependency Counsel Funding
The Administration recognizes the important role played by counsel who represent abused and neglected children and their parents in dependency cases. The Judicial Council’s current annual budget allocation for court‐appointed dependency counsel is $103.7 million. Over the last several years, the Council has evaluated the workload of dependency lawyers and recommended a basic caseload standard of 188 cases per attorney. An improvement in attorney caseload would reduce hearing delays and potentially shorten time to permanency for families. The current statewide average caseload is 248 cases per attorney. Many counties fall well within the standard but others far exceed it. Judicial Council allocations to courts are based on historical factors rather than on current caseloads. The Administration will work with the Judicial Council to develop a caseload‐based allocation methodology and explore ways to reduce the number of cases.
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