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Court's Self-Help Clinics at Risk in Budget Deal

Thursday, August 23, 2007

  • By: Gary Scott
  • Organization: The Daily Journal
  • Source: CALegalAdvocates > CALegalAdvocates.org
SACRAMENTO - California lawmakers brokered a budget deal on Tuesday, ending a 51-day impasse that disrupted payments to a number of state contractors, including lawyers who represent indigent clients in the California court system.
The deal allows the Administrative Office of the Courts to pay more than $8 million owed to attorneys who handle child dependency and felony appeals cases for the poor, and to judges who must travel for assignments.
The unpaid bills continued to pile up each day the impasse dragged on. Although the Administrative Office of the Courts reported no major disruptions, administrative director William Vickrey said operations could have suffered if an agreement had not been reached by September.
However, concessions made to win over reluctant Republicans in the Senate could cost the courts $2.5 million to expand self-help clinics for litigants in civil cases who cannot afford representation.
"That was on the Republican cut list," said Kate Howard, chief lobbyist for the AOC.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger pledged to use his line-item veto power to slash about $700 million from the $145 billion spending plan as a way to mollify Senate Republicans. The self-help clinics, which were included in the Assembly version of the budget passed in July, are among the list of programs Republicans wanted cut.
Howard said she has contacted the governor's office in hopes of keeping the funding in the budget.
"It is difficult for everyone when there is a protracted impasse," Howard said. "We are greatly relieved that we have an agreement and we think the judicial branch budget turned out quite positive overall."
Howard said her next step is to focus on a number of other judicial branch priorities before the legislature session comes to an end in four weeks.
At the top of the agenda is an agreement on funding court security. The Judicial Council also wants to see legislation passed to extend the deadline for transferring court operations to the state and to hire another 50 judges.
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