San Francisco Court System Being Cut by 40 Percent

SAN FRANCISCO—Getting justice in San Francisco is about to get a lot harder, literally. In an astounding 40 percent reduction in the city's capacity to provide access to services provided by the courts, 200 employees from the city's Superior Court are being fired and 25 courtroom in the city are being shuttered because of state budgetary woes, Courtroom News Service has reported.

"The layoffs will take effect Sept. 30 and courtrooms will close indefinitely on Oct. 3," the news service said. "After the layoffs, which will be based on length of service and seniority, 280 employees will remain—less than half the staff of 3 years ago."

According to Superior Court Presiding Judge Katherine Feinstein, who spoke out about the deep cuts Monday, the blame lays northeast of the City by the Bay. "Our government and Legislature have used our judiciary as an ATM to solve their budget crisis. We now know the trial courts are the lowest priority in Sacramento."

Feinstein, who is the sitting Senator's daughter, said the cuts would "significantly harm the Bay Area economy."

According to Business Insider, the reductions will mean it will take 18 months to conclude a divorce and 5 years for a lawsuit to go to trial. In terms of daily court business—filing papers, paying tickets, or dealing with court clerks for any type of business—already long lines could start snaking out the building, down the street, maybe into the ocean.

Family services will be hurt as well. According to Jenny Yu, an attorney who represents children and parents in the Dependency Department of the Unified Family Court, everyone is bracing for the worst following the termination last week of 11 hearing officers and commissioners.

"The commissioners had shown a lot of compassion for the families," she said, adding that the mood at the juvenile dependency court had turned "sullen and gloomy."

And, like carmageddon, the non-emergency that dominated the news while this real conflagration was taking place, there's always next year.

"This fiscal year's $13.75 million deficit could be followed next year by a $10 million deficit and more layoffs," Feinstein said. "The future is very, very bleak for our courts."