I know that this post relates to California courts, but it probably is equally applicable to courts in other states throughout the United States. If you live anywhere else other than California, think twice about how lucky you are not to be here.
Governor Brown has just proposed an additional $544,000,000 in budgetary cuts from the California Judiciary and Court System. These cuts are on top of the cuts to our court budgets that have gone into effect over the last few years.
We have already seen the effect of the existing budget cuts to our court system. Long delays when filing documents, sometimes weeks before you can get conformed copies back, where just 5 years ago and as long as I have been practicing law, you could file your documents and get file stamped copies on the spot. Issuance of Writs and other court orders take weeks, including those for evictions and that is after you have obtained your judgment. I can remember the days, not to long ago, when I could go to court, get the judge to sign the judgment, walk it to the clerks office along with my writ documents and Sheriff instructions and the clerk would have all of my documents to the Sheriff the same or next day. Back then, my landlords still complained that the process took to long.
Some courts are so backed up that getting a hearing date some times takes longer than a trial date, making the motion and my arguments moot. True, this happened to me once, down in San Diego.
Los Angeles County Superior Court will no longer automatically supply a court reporter for a hearing although you can make arrangement to have one on your own dime. I am not sure how bad this is since I think the state courts should have gone to recorded hearings a long time ago like the federal courts did. Nevertheless, unprepared lawyers and clients may find themselves unprepared when they need a court reporter.
My concern is that our civil court system is going to take such a hit to its operations that we will have trouble handling civil disputes in a timely fashion and efficient fashion. Ok, so it hasn't been so timely or efficient, but it is sure to get worse.
I know that I have written about this before and I am going to write about it again. The time has come for Collaborative Arbitration where the evidence, issues, documents and arguments accumulate online for all parties to access and the dispute is resolved before an arbitrator. The other unique feature of Collaborative Arbitration is that not only do the parties exchange information in an online database shared by the parties and the arbitrator, but the arbitrator gets access to all of the information, issues and evidence from the get-go and can be in constant communication with the parties rather than only dealing with everything at the time of the hearing. This will tend to get the parties to resolve the dispute much sooner.