Budget Cuts Squeeze San Francisco Superior Courts

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — San Francisco Superior Court will close its clerk’s offices at civil, criminal and juvenile courts early on Fridays to close a nearly $5.3 million budget gap, and workers will take pay cuts.

Clerk’s offices, usually open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., will close at 1 p.m. on Fridays from Sept. 1 until the end of June next year.

To avoid layoffs, court staff and their four unions agreed to be furloughed one Friday per month without pay, starting in August. Together with a hiring freeze, the payroll savings should total $1.5 million. The chief judge has asked all judges to donate one day’s pay per month to court operations.

Courthouses and courtrooms will not close early, though case calendars may be adjusted to reflect reduced staffing.

The moves are a response to a cut in state funding to the court. The San Francisco Superior Court budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 is $51.7 million — $5.3 million less than last year.

The cut resulted from a budgeting formula called the Workload-based Allocation and Funding Methodology, which California’s judicial branch implemented in 2013.

For reference, the court’s budget was $90.5 million in 2008, and its nonjudicial staff numbered 650. The court today has about 430 clerks.

“We are committed to keeping our courtrooms open and continuing to prioritize access to justice despite the 9 percent cut in our state funding allocation for the fiscal year,” Presiding Judge Teri Jackson said in a statement.

During the period of furloughs and reduced hours, Jackson is urging judges to donate one day’s pay per month, roughly $509, to the court’s operations budget.

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