Budget derails justice in LA as Clark County holds its breath

The wheels of justice have flattened like pancakes in Los Angeles, where earlier this month Superior Court officials announced the layoff of 329 employees by April 1 and the closure of 17 courtrooms in reaction to a $79.3 million budget shortfall.

This report in the San Gabriel Tribune explains how this could be the tip of the iceberg as a stunning 500 additional layoffs are expected to hit in September, when as many as 50 additional courtrooms could close.

Meanwhile, the Clark County court system limps along and is expected to stay roughly a percentage point under budget for the remainder of the fiscal year ending June 30. This means judges, clerks, marshals and housekeeping have tightened belts to the choke point. 

Who knows, pretty soon there won't be money for the painters at the Regional Justice Center to cover up the first floor bathroom graffiti or the plumbers to repair the urinals that seem to be vandalized weekly.

Steve Grierson, the court's executive officer, has rejected the few purchase order requests that have come across his desk. The court system, like most government agencies, has responded to the economic crisis with mandatory furloughs and a hiring and wage freeze. So far, no pink slips have been handed out but the worried expressions reveal the stress workers are under.

And as our neighbors on the coast constrict, Clark County expands. There is remodeling under way on the third floor of the RJC to accommodate eight new judges coming on board after Jan. 1. Additional space will be available at the Clark Place building across the street once the Child Support Center of Southern Nevada concludes its move to 1900 Flamingo Road later this month.

The space will house staffs, but courtrooms will become valuable real estate. Current judges are already planning strategies for a rousing game of musical courtrooms.

But the bustling movement downtown is the result of a plan put in place a couple of years ago. All the action is misleading because nobody knows what will happen when the new fiscal year begins July 1. Grierson said at a meeting of judges last week that Clark County officials remain silent on budget issues, but nothing is off the table.

Unlike the Los Angeles Superior Court system, the judicial system in Clark County will not let a little thing like no money stop it in its tracks -- at least not for the next three months.


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