Contra Costa County Superior Court would be forced slash public services in response to multimillion-dollar state budget cuts, county officials announced Friday.
As part of the court's budget plan for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, adopted Tuesday, the court will close six courtrooms, and limit court reporting and interpreter services and plans to either consolidate or eliminate specialty courts such as Domestic Violence Court and Homeless Court, among other major cuts, according to court officials.
By the end of the year, Walnut Creek Courthouse will only hear traffic cases under the new budget and will shift criminal, small claims, domestic violence and other cases to Martinez, Pittsburg or Richmond. The changes would have no direct impact on Lamorinda residents doing business with the court, though the reduction in services and hours will obviously put additional strains on an already strained system.
Prompted by California's budget for the upcoming fiscal year, the county court's budget plan reduces the court's operating budget by $7 million, officials said.
"Since the state has cut the court's budget and taken $8 million of its reserves, the court can no longer maintain its current public service levels," a court statement said.
The state cuts have reduced the court's budget by about 25 percent, prompting a series of meetings last month among court leaders, staff, police, attorneys, government officials and the public, court officials said. Public input during those meetings influenced the newly adopted financial plan, according to the court's statement.
Under the new budget, starting Oct. 1, the court clerk's office will cut its hours and be open to the public from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., to give staff time to catch up on backlogged court papers, officials said.
Effective Oct. 22, family law cases now heard in Pittsburg courtrooms will be sent to Martinez. A similar transfer of juvenile law cases from the Richmond courthouse to Martinez will take effect Dec. 31, meaning a 40-plus-mile round trip for many West County residents.
Court interpreters for non-English speakers in the county's domestic violence and family courts will be limited depending on the availability of grant funding, starting Dec. 31.