Furlough Fail

With news that the Frankenstein budget and budget revisions of 2009-10 are still generating deficits, it’s worth looking at some of the effects of some of the cuts now that they’ve had time to sink it.

The Riverside Press-Enterprise reports that their projected furlough savings are approximately $4m short of their projections and that in some cases, the furloughs are actually driving up the costs of operation. And so, of course they are asking the workers to take a haircut.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reports that L.A. County Superior Court operations have been devastated by the cuts, and that civil trials may now take up to 4 years to go to trial. Lots of people laid off.

Under current court rules, most civil cases are supposed to be set for trial within one year of filing. This so-called “fast track” system created in the 1990s is now basically dead. The law requires that at trial begin within 5 years, though back in the pre-fast-track days, there were ways around this, such as empaneling a jury and then declaring a mistrial.

Leaving aside the lost jobs within the courts, this will lead to a serious lesson in “justice delayed is justice denied.” The big guys can often stomach a fight for that long, but your average civil plaintiff may not. Along with this are hard to quantify costs that will be thrown out into the world due to litigation expenses when it would be so much cheaper to fully fund the courts.

Also, I have read that the courts have put on hold until the 2020s their effort to implement the kind of online filing and calendaring system that you might have expected in the 1990s. The federal courts have a somewhat decent system, but nothing like what could be set up in one night with a good LAMP server today.

I submit these two instances as further evidence of the penny wise pound foolish approach the dysfunctional California government has taken towards the budget.