‘As goes California’ is a civil courts warning

With the nation’s largest trial court (Los Angeles) and a reputation for litigation, maybe it makes sense that California is leading the way in “court funding crisis.” In what may become a national talking point, given the Golden State’s influence, advocates of increased court funding are positioning the issue as a civil right debates.

California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauyehas has taken the lead, telling lawmakers and anyone else who will listen that “… as long as the [judicial] branch is underfunded, we will continue to see harmful and astonishing delays.” She also pushes past the usual challenges facing criminal justice systems to cite civil court problems, like civil disputes involving business, discrimination, employment, family matters, foster care and personal injury.

“It’s tragic that 50 years after the enactment of the Civil Rights Act, California faces a different type of civil rights crisis,” she has said. “It is not about the law. It is about access to it.”

The topic is likely to heat up with California’s looming June budget deadlines. Last year’s budgets prompted street protests and this year, with the state carrying a surplus for the first time in years, will bring calls for reinstatement of previous funding. Speaking to a joint legislative session in the Assembly Chamber at the state capitol earlier this year, Cantil-Sakauye asked for partnership across the government to address what has been nearly half a billion dollars in cumulative budget cuts since 2008. She said the reductions have deprived more than 2 million Californians of access to a local court and have had a particularly negative effect on civil cases, which cede precedence to criminal justice.

You can read of her more recent budget-boosting efforts here.