Newsom Increases Court Funding to Address Judge Shortage

(CN) – Years of lobbying for new judgeships have yielded results with California Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose revised May budget released Thursday offers $30 million for 25 new judges.

California has had a severe shortage of judges for years and the Judicial Council says a detailed analysis of statewide court workload in 2016 showed the need for 180 more. 

Newsom’s commitment to funding for more judges contrasts with his predecessor Gov. Jerry Brown, whose budgets have tended to shift vacancies around as a cost saving measure.

Since 2008, several lawmakers have introduced bills to fund the 50 judgeships authorized by the Legislature in 2007 and authorize another set of 50, but their efforts had been largely unsuccessful. 

Rather than fund many new judgeships, Brown decided in his 2017 budget to move two vacant judgeships from Alameda and Santa Clara counties to Riverside and San Bernardino counties, where the need was most dire.

Newsom touted his generous spending plan for the courts to reporters on Thursday.

“We’re adding $51.1 million dollars of court funding. We’re going to get $30 million for new judges, new bailiffs and more money for the appellate courts. $9.6 million for language access, which is a big deal,” Newsom said, thanking “trial attorneys and others that have just had enough of the lack of court funding.”

His budget also adds $33.9 million in court-appointed dependency council funding and $20 million for legal aid for tenants in disputes with landlords. It also allows courts to raise their reserve cap from one percent to three, allowing courts to save more money from year to year.

California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye praised Newsom’s budget in a statement Thursday.

“The Governor’s revision to his state budget proposal reflects his deep support for our goal of achieving equal access to justice for all Californians—wherever they live. This proposal would provide judges for those living in communities where there has long been a need,” she said. “It also supports the important progress we have made in expanding language access in our courts. I look forward to continuing to work with the Governor and Legislature to ensure our courts are fair and accessible to all.”

In unveiling his revised budget, Newsom said Cantil-Sakauye has “been rightfully frustrated that we have provided for judges but we haven’t funded the judges. And finally we’re in a position to fund at least 25 judges.”

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