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California courts implementing monthly closures to ease budget crisis

[JURIST] California courts were closed Wednesday in the first of what will be a monthly shut down of the judiciary in an effort to reduce the state's budget gap. The closures were authorized as part of California Code 68070 [text], which allows for closure of the courts one day per month, "for the transaction of judicial business for one day per month and may adopt rules of court to implement this section." While the move may slow some court business, one provision of the code does mandate that a court officer:

be available for the signing of any necessary documents on an emergency basis during the time a court is closed under this section on the same basis as a judicial officer is available on Saturdays, Sundays, and judicial holidays, and any other time a court is closed.

California court employees held a rally [San Jose Mercury News report] Wednesday to protest the closures, arguing that court closures harm the public, an opinion echoed [SDNN report] by California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George [official profile]. The once monthly court closures, which will take place the third Wednesday of each month until June 2010, are expected to save the state [AP report] approximately $84 million.

Court closures are the latest money-saving tactic employed by California in the wake of state-wide budget issues, including a $26.3 billion state budget deficit [TIME report]. The Regents of the University of California recently indicated they would agree to student fee increases [San Jose Mercury News report] of 32 percent, one day after students and faculty at the 10 state-wide campuses called for a walkout [San Francisco Chronicle report] on the first scheduled day of classes to protest how the UC system has handled the budget crisis. In Los Angeles, the city council on Wednesday approved a plan for layoffs and furloughs [Los Angeles Times report] for city employees to counter the city's $400 million budget shortfall.

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