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Impact of State Budget on Access to Justice; Proposed Changes to Local Rules

The continuing state budget crisis is being experienced locally to a greater extent.  Beginning October 7, some employees will be furloughed every Friday.  Although courthouses will be open on Fridays, services will be greatly reduced.  A few courtrooms will be open to tend to mandated hearings and criminal matters, domestic violence, elder abuse and civil harassment restraining orders involving stalking and/or threats of domestic violence.

In addition, telephone inquiries will not be available on Fridays nor will attorney windows be open.  Expect long lines and limited services at the clerk’s office.

Beginning January 3, 2012, the Grover Beach Branch will close.  The closure is directly related to the reduction in funding by the state.  Although the closure is considered to be a temporary suspension at this time, there is not an anticipated re-opening date at this time.

These reductions in services are in addition to the discontinuation of the EZLegalFile online legal forms software as of June 30, 2011 and ever increasing filing fees.

Proposed changes to local rules will become effective January 1, 2012.  The proposed changes include:

  • Increased fees for filling a stipulation for continuance;
  • Ability to access tentative rulings by telephone no later than 4:00 p.m. the day prior to the hearing;
  • Reporting of any traffic citation or complaint to the DMV as a confidential traffic school conviction rather than a dismissal.

Be on the lookout for additional belt tightening in the months ahead as the state continues to confront budgetary woes.

Ellen J. Sheffer                     Leslie A. Donahue