In the last five years, funding to the Californiacourt system has been cumulatively cut by over $1 billion dollars. Things appear to have come to a head in 2012, as this year’s cuts have triggered significant, sweeping changes to court hours, locations, and availability of services.
The Court Clerk’s office now closes at 1:00 p.m. instead of 3:00 p.m. The public has been charged with subsidizing the cost of court reporters, in the form of a $30 reporter fee added to new filings on top of the standard filing fee (which was also increased). Lodging a decedent’s will with the Court Clerk used to be free; now it costs $50. Several court branches have seen their services reduced, or have or will be closed completely:
(1) The Richmond courthouse no longer accepts applications for domestic violence restraining orders.
(2) The family law courtroom in the Pittsburg courthouse is closed.
(3) The Juvenile courtrooms in Pittsburg and Richmond are closed.
(4) The Concord courthouse is closed completely.
(5) The Walnut Creek courthouse will only hear traffic matters from Concord and Walnut Creek.
(6) All small claims cases will now only be heard inMartinez, one night per month.
(7) Traffic night court everywhere has been suspended.
As a result of these changes, theMartinez court is expected to experience a significant increase in caseload, which will lead to longer lines at the clerk’s office, more distant hearing dates, and crowded court calendars. Trust and estate litigation cases are going to take longer to reach trial. Now more than ever, we encourage our clients to consider alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation or arbitration, as a faster and cheaper way to resolve cases.