Thu Jun 20, 2013 3:17AM
Significant cuts to the U-S court system are expected to cripple the access poor people and minorities have to justice. In California, more than 114 courtrooms and 22 courthouses have been closed, with 30 courts reducing their work hours. Social advocates say these cuts will disproportionately affect the 99 percenters by causing longer lines, imposing new fees and increasing travel time.
California's court system is facing a funding crisis and it's forcing court closures and layoffs across the state. In the past five years, the court system’s budget has been cut by more than 1 billion dollars. The deepest cuts are happening in Los Angeles County, which maintains the state’s largest court system. Hundreds of positions have been cut and dozens of courthouses have been closed. Advocates say these courthouse cuts will have severe impacts on the 99 percenters by reducing or eliminating their access to judicial relief. Court officials say the cuts are necessary to close a 85 million dollar budget shortfall. But the closures will crowd the remaining courthouses, forcing people to wait hours before entering. And getting to the courthouses will be more difficult as well. This is especially true for low-income people who can only afford the Metro public transit. The Los Angeles closures are part of a nationwide trend that is making the court system harder for vulnerable communities. Advocates say this will lead to more unfair fees, bench warrants and car impounds for those who are already struggling to get by. The court closures are expected to mean trouble for at-risk youth. Activists say because of the limited access, young people will miss court dates and run from authorities. And they say people with disabilities will be more vulnerable to foreclosures because they won’t be able to travel to court to challenge the banks. Advocates want the judges to immediately stop the closure plan. They’re also calling for public hearings about the closures at each targeted courthouse. They say this will give the public the chance to have a say.