Here are key components of the plan finalized by the Contra Costa Superior Court this week that will reduce its budget by $7 million and reflect the loss of $8 million in reserves.
Six courtrooms will be closed and one other reduced to four days a week because the court does not have sufficient staff to allow them to operate properly. The loss of these courtrooms will seriously hamper the Court's ability to provide full access to justice and to hear cases without undue delay. The courtrooms to be closed are the following: Effective Oct. 22, the existing Family Law courtroom at the Arnason Justice Center in Pittsburg will be shut down and the cases will be reassigned from a commissioner to the existing Family Law departments in Martinez. East County residents will have to travel to Martinez to have their Family Law matters considered. Among other things, it will take longer to get a divorce or a decision on child custody. The Child Support courtroom in Martinez will be closed one day per week, reducing it to the level of service provided by the basic federal grant that funds this program. This will result in delays in obtaining child support orders. Effective Dec. 31, the Juvenile Law courtroom in Pittsburg will be shut down and the cases will be reassigned to an existing judge in Martinez. In addition, the Juvenile Law courtroom in Richmond will be shut down and the judge will be reassigned to Martinez. East County and West County residents will have to travel to Martinez to have their Juvenile Law matters heard. The court is still considering whether a limited number of Juvenile Law calendars will be heard in Pittsburg and Richmond. Effective Dec. 31, one Civil Trial department will be closed and the Civil Discovery/Ex Parte courtroom in Martinez will be shut down. Cases now heard in the to-be-closed Civil Trial department and matters now heard by the Civil Discovery Commissioner will be heard by the remaining Martinez Civil Trial Departments. This will result in increased calendar congestion and will cause delays in hearings, trials, court decisions and orders. . The Concord courthouse will close its doors to the public. Traffic cases will be transferred to the Walnut Creek Court. The remaining case types (small claims, unlawful detainer, domestic violence and civil harassment) will be transferred to Martinez, Pittsburg or Richmond. Residents who use the Concord courthouse will have to travel to another courthouse location. The use of the Walnut Creek courthouse will change significantly. Only traffic cases will be heard in Walnut Creek. Criminal, small claims, unlawful detainer, domestic violence and civil harassment cases will be transferred to Martinez, Pittsburg or Richmond. Residents who use the Walnut Creek courthouse (except for traffic hearings) will have to travel to another courthouse location.
Two Commissioners will hear traffic cases on a rotating basis, in Pittsburg, Richmond and Walnut Creek.
Effective Dec. 31, court-reporting services will be significantly reduced in general civil, family and probate courtrooms.
Effective Dec. 31, specialty courts such as Juvenile Night Court, Juvenile and Adult Drug Court, Domestic Violence Court, Homeless Court, Mental Health, Elder Court and Truancy Court will either be consolidated or eliminated to allow the judges to focus on mandated calendars.
Interpreters in domestic violence matters in Family Court will only be provided to the extent grant funding allows. Currently, the grant funds interpreters through fall 2012. The court is seeking additional grant funds from the state to fund these vital services.
Effective Oct. 1, the Clerk's Office will only be open to the public from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. (reduced from 8 a.m. — 3 p.m.). Exceptions will be made for temporary restraining orders and other urgent matters that address the safety of individuals. The reduced hours will provide staff with critically needed time to process the increasing backlog of unprocessed court papers.
Self-help services and workshops for unrepresented litigants will be reduced.
Other internal measures that will assist the court in balancing the budget this fiscal year will be instituted.