Judicial Council Delays Seven New Courthouses

SAN FRANCISCO — The Judicial Council recently accepted recommendations from its Court Facilities Working Group to indefinitely delay seven new courthouse projects due to ongoing state budget cuts. The seven projects — in Kern, Los Angeles, Monterey, Placer and Plumas Counties — will be paused until funding is restored or regained through cost savings on other projects.

By fiscal year 2013-2014, nearly $1.5 billion of court user fees originally designated by the Legislature to be set aside for court construction will have been borrowed, transferred to the state General Fund, or redirected to court operations. This year the Legislature directed that $50 million per year be permanently diverted from court construction to trial court operations.

“Four years of deep budget cuts to the judicial branch — more than 30 percent since the 2008-2009 fiscal year — have required that we radically refocus the court construction program,” said Justice Brad R. Hill, chair of the Court Facilities Working Group and Administrative Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Fifth Appellate District. “It’s been a difficult and painful process to freeze certain projects and direct cost-cutting across the board in all others, but we’re grateful for the continued collaboration, flexibility, and creative thinking of the courts in this process.”

Despite having to delay the seven projects, the council was able to approve 23 courthouse projects to proceed as funds become available and changed one project to a renovation, rather than new construction.

During the meeting, the Judicial Council also approved the working group’s recommendation to accept the comprehensive audit of the court construction program completed by Pegasus-Global Holdings, Inc. The council adopted the audit’s 137 recommendations and directed that they be implemented by July 16, 2013.