Newsom Pledges More Funding Support for Judiciary

(CN) – California Gov. Gavin Newsom promised state judiciary employees a $9.5 million raise in his proposed $4.1 billion budget for the judiciary that also prioritizes funding for court technology and pre-trial pilot projects.

The raise amounts to a 3.5 percent increase, bringing judiciary employees in line with other state workers, said a council spokesman, who also noted that former Gov. Jerry Brown increased salaries by 12 percent for state-level judicial branch workers over three years during his tenure.

The raise will affect Supreme Court and appellate court employees, as well as those who work for the Judicial Council staff— the bureaucratic arm of the judiciary’s rule-making body.

Newsom’s spending plan, unveiled Thursday, also focused heavily on the digital court, with $41.9 million from the general fund to replace case management software in ten trial courts, updates to court payroll systems in seven courts and a pilot program to digitize paper and film case files in six courts.

He also committed general fund dollars to carry out technology projects proposed by the Commission on the Future of California’s Court System, a group assembled by California Supreme Court Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye in 2015 to set priorities for the courts.

Newsom dedicated $2.3 million in his proposal to advance three specific new technology projects recommended by the commission: remote video for non-criminal court proceedings, voice-to-text language interpretation at court filing counters and self-help centers and intelligent chat to provide self-help services, according to his budget summary.

“Governor Newsom’s budget proposal for the Judicial Branch will help maintain momentum on branch initiatives and innovations designed to deliver full and fair access to justice. His proposal reflects a shared commitment to modernization, transparency, and customer service,” Cantil-Sakauye said in a written statement.

Reflecting the judiciary’s commitment to bail reform, Newsom also proposed $75 million from the general fund over two years for programs that will help the courts with “pretrial decision-making.”

Last year, then-Gov. Brown signed into law a bill that eliminates money bail in favor of risk-assessments for pre-trial detainees to determine whether they should be allowed to await trial at home. But this framework imposed a new burden on the courts, which must perform the risk assessments themselves or contract with an outside agency.

Newsom directed the Judicial Council to choose eight to ten courts to receive a portion of the $75 million grant for risk assessment tools.

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