Sunday, April 20, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Courts are doing more with less

Yolo Superior Court Presiding Judge Steven M. Basha. Courtesy photo

By Steven M. Basha

Since becoming responsible for daily oversight of Yolo Superior Court operations earlier this year, I have come to three conclusions.

First, we have an extraordinary court administration and staff. Despite crushing budget setbacks from the state, they continue to provide excellent assistance to the public as well to as to the judicial officers.

Our staff works hard to serve our community even though the state has cut our budget 35 percent over the past few years. This has meant a 30 percent reduction in overall staff and a 50 percent reduction in civil process staff. During this same period, our workload has not decreased. New case filings average 40,000 each year and staff handles on average 75,000 telephone inquiries each year.

Added to these duties are the numerous responsibilities that staff carries out for courtroom proceedings each day. All judicial officers join me in extending our heartfelt thanks to our court administration and staff for their continued excellent work.

Funding reductions are not unique to the Yolo Superior Court. All 58 Superior Courts in California have experienced significant funding cuts by the state over the past several years, severely impacting each court’s operations. Even with these cuts, we can go forward with the construction of our new courthouse because the monies to pay for that construction come from additional court “user fees” that by law that cannot be used for a court’s operations.

Second, ongoing cuts means we cannot sustain the same level of services that we provided when we were fully staffed and funded. On occasion, members of the public have been directly impacted by the reductions with longer lines at filing windows, longer telephone holds and other delays in accessing court services. We know that this is frustrating for the public — and for us. We are now installing a civil filing drop box and a date/time stamp to enable same-day filing of civil documents for those who cannot wait in line.

We sincerely regret any inconvenience to the public and we are constantly looking for better ways to do our work with fewer resources. As we continue to do just that, we ask for your patience and understanding.

Third, the Yolo Court is committed to meeting its legal requirement to provide fair and equal access to all who use our services. This means that the court cannot favor one group of users over another. We must provide the same level of access to all.

The judicial officers of the Yolo Superior Court understand our responsibilities to the public. We are dedicated to meeting these responsibilities as best we can with the continued extraordinary work of court administration and staff in collaboration with our justice partners. We thank you, the public, for understanding the situation.

— Steven M. Basha is presiding judge of the Yolo Superior Court.

Special to The Enterprise

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