Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski Tuesday
in Sacramento calling for increased spending
on the state’s court system. 
PHOTO/Asm Wieckowski

ASSEMBLY | BUDGET | Access to justice is hard to come by if the courts are fighting to keep their doors open. All segments of the state budget labored through significant cuts over the past few years. The state courts system is no exception and like most areas of state government, noticing rising revenues and a budget surplus, its is looking for their share of the larger pie.

Fremont Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski on Tuesday urged for reinstatement of some of the over $1 billion cut from the judiciary’s budget during the Great Recession. Last week, Wieckowski praised Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal allotting $105 million to the courts. As chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, Wieckowski said the governor’s proposal should be a “down payment” toward the $266 million the courts will need to begin addressing past reductions.

The pinch has been felt by poor who, in many cases, do not possess the financial ability to pay for suitable legal representation. “Low-income Californians have been especially hit hard because they are the most vulnerable to the loss of their legal rights and the burden of court budget cuts have fallen most heavily on services disproportionately used by low-income parties,” said Wieckowski. “The impact on the poor is even greater because funding for legal aid services has been slashed.”

At a press conference in Sacramento also attended by State Sen. Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye added, 205 courtrooms have been closed, 51 courthouses and people are forced to often drive long distances just to have their day in court.