It’s no secret that the state’s budget is a mess. And though a deal was reached between the governor and the legislature to try and make the best of it, there are a lot of unhappy people as a result. Some of those unhappy people are judges and attorneys who work in courts throughout the state.
The state courts are closed one day a month for the foreseeable future (the furloughs will stop in June at the earliest). The idea behind the furloughs is to save the state some money. If the entire judiciary takes one unpaid day off per month, then that’s one day’s worth of salaries each month that the state can put towards balancing the budget. But cutting out that day of work means that less work is getting done. And while losing one day of work might not affect the average worker’s productivity, it does affect the productivity of an already tightly strained judiciary system.
A common theme that law students see over and over in every class is the question “how can we conserve judicial resources?” The question is an important one because it’s fairly common knowledge that having a judicial system costs something. And no matter what we are willing to pay to have that system in place, it is still a limited resource because time is a limited resource. There’s a huge number of people who want to use the courts, and a limited amount of time in which they can be used.
According to The Recorder , around the state yesterday judges and attorneys protested the furloughs by going to work anyway. Other staff picketed outside the Administratve Office of the Courts building in San Francisco. These workers are worried that the backlog will continue to grow, and people seeking to use the courts will be unable to. Judges and attorneys were perparing for oral arguments that were to happen today, and simply couldn’t take the day off.
In a field where we already value judicial economy and efficiency, it’s hard to see how things can get done with fewer working hours–but we’re going to watch the California courts try.