Lori Fowler, Staff Writer
Posted: 11/22/2012 04:23:09 PM PST
Updated: 11/23/2012 12:47:00 AM PST

The Los Angeles Superior Court recently announced plans to cut spending by $30 million this fiscal year – the most significant reduction of services in its history.

But in the coming fiscal year, officials are preparing to tackle an even large number – possibly up to $85 million – in an effort to stay afloat.

“Everything we did in June was to achieve a savings of $30 million,” said Mary Hearn, Los Angeles Superior Court.

“We are now looking at, on low end, $55 to $56 million up to $85 million. Minimally, we are almost doubling what we did in June, possibly tripling it.”

Los Angeles County court system officials earlier this month announced a plan to close all courtrooms in 10 community courthouses starting June 30, 2013, in an effort to get a handle on a looming deficit.

The courthouses affected include the San Pedro branches on Seventh Street and on Beacon Street as well branches in Avalon, Beverly Hills, Huntington Park, Pomona, Whittier, Malibu and the David Kenyon Juvenile Justice Center in Los Angeles.

The courtroom closures on June 30 will prompt an unknown number of layoffs involving court clerks, court reporters and other staffers, Hearn said.

Specifics have yet to be released regarding where cases and employees will be transferred, but Hearn used the example of small claims cases to illustrate the level of cuts expected.

“We plan to regionalize certain types of cases,” she said. “There are 26 courthouses where small claims matters are heard. After the reorganization proposal, we’re planning to have six locations where small claim cases are heard.

“That’s one of the parts of the plan – reduce the numbers.”

The closures take in an array of court activity ranging from criminal and civil cases, probate, small claims, juvenile justice and landlord-tenant disputes.

Although some administrative work might still be offered in the buildings – including accepting traffic payments – cases would be moved to other open courthouses, Hearn said.

Along with the reorganization will come “great delays,” officials said.

Hearn warned about longer times for divorces and civil courts. It will also take longer to process paperwork and there will be longer lines at the courthouses that remain open.

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