During the fiscal year that started in July, the San Diego Superior Court must cut $33 million from a budget that had been $190 million. To do this, the court will exhaust all of its $22 million in reserves and cut an additional $11 million. Those cuts will be made through layoffs of 60 to 70 people (down from an anticipated 238 due to a voluntary separation program and attrition), additional employee furloughs, elimination of court reporters in some cases, closure of business offices and some courtrooms in South County and East County and severe reduction of small-claims night court in Kearny Mesa.
It all amounts to a dramatic reduction in the publics access to the states justice system.
At the same time, as uncovered last week by CityBeat investigative reporter Dave Maass, 126 judges and nine executive employees will continue to receive auto allowances that total nearly $1 million ($962,899) over a years time. Judges get $572 per month in car stipends. The presiding judge, assistant presiding judge and supervising judges each receive $674 per month. Thats mostly just for driving to and from work.
U-T San Diego columnist Matthew Hall was so outraged by Maass story that he authored a column on the topic—headlined Judges car allowances are highway robbery—that was published the day after our story came out. That these judges get an exorbitant auto allowance from the state is outrageous in a good economy, Hall wrote. Its inexcusable in bad times.
Yep. And the courts executive officer, Michael Roddy, seems to realize that, too, telling Hall that Were not at this point into cutting judges pay, and that may not sell down on Main Street, but thats really our perspective.
What hes saying is that, yeah, regular people wont like it, but they can just deal with it, because the perk, which has been eliminated or reduced elsewhere up and down the state, has come to be regarded by judges and executives in San Diego County as simply part of their salary. Its safe to assume that Roddy himself, the local courts top executive, gets an allowance. The nine executives get an average of $6,608 per year.
Judges salaries are automatically set and protected by the state Constitution, and its the state that determines the number of judges for each county. Currently, judges get $178,789 per year. Obviously, the judges in San Diego County dont think thats enough, and theyll eliminate peoples jobs and close down court services just so they can get another $6,864 or $8,088 each year, depending on their position.
If this pisses you off, let Roddy know it. Register your gripe online or by calling the Executive Office at 619-450-5500.
We also call on our local representatives in the state Senate and Assembly to put pressure on the court to end this obscene practice.
What do you think? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org