Nearly a Tenth of L.A. County Courtrooms to Close

LOS ANGELES—In a county that is already "rationing justice," does it make sense to add a layer of legal bureaucracy and enforcement that will only add more stress to the system, especially if no discernable value will result? Does it make sense to do the same in the city of Los Angeles, which tomorrow will hold a hearing on the mechanism that will be employed to enforce the city's new mandatory condom law for porn sets?

But with the news today that L.A. County will close 56 courtrooms throughout the county—including 24 civil, 24 criminal, three family, one probate, and four juvenile delinquency courts—and lay off 350 people in addition to the 329 laid off over the past two years, those are the sorts of thoughts that these "extraordinary actions," as Presiding Judge Lee Smalley Edmon put it, inspire.

The closures account for a tenth of all county courtrooms, a staggering percentage for a county with a population of approximately 10 million people. On a daily basis, courtrooms throughout the county are beehives of frenetic activity at every level of the justice system.

“We are already rationing justice,” Edmon said in a press release issued Tuesday. “Staffing reductions due to budget cuts over the past 10 years have forced our court to reduce staffing by 24 percent, while case filings continue to increase. This has created incredible pressures on our court to keep up with our work. We cannot endure these pressures for much longer.”

The estimated $30 million savings that will be realized from the current closures and layoffs will be in addition to the $70 million already trimmed. The $562 million reduction in spending for California’s courts are the direct result of budget cuts imposed by the state.

Of course, Los Angeles is not the only major metropolitan area in California whose courts are being severely down-sized. As AVN reported last July, San Francisco experienced "an astounding 40 percent reduction in the city's capacity to provide access to services provided by the courts."

The ancient legal maxim that "justice delayed is justice denied" is about to become an even more conspicuous reality in the City of Angels and its surrounding environs. But considering the absurd mandatory condom laws—one of which is on the books, the other still in play—that will require resources neither the county nor the city have, another appropriate legal maxim might be "justice distracted is justice denied."