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The Chatsworth Courthouse Is Spared as $30 Million Slashed from Budget

At least 431 court employees and staff are facing layoffs.

Fifty-six civil and 24 criminal courtrooms will close on June 30 in 10 courthouses as $30 million is slashed from the Los Angeles County court system.

The Chatsworth Courthouse does not appear to be on the hit list.

The targeted courthouses are in Huntington Park, Whittier, Pomona North, Malibu, West Los Angeles, South Los Angeles (Kenyon Juvenile), Beverly Hills, San Pedro (the main courthouse and Beacon Street annex) and Catalina, according to The Recorder, a legal website. In addition, 431 employees will be laid off. However, the courthouses will continue to handle some administrative matters like ticket payments, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Presiding Judge Lee Smalley Edmon confirmed Wednesday afternoon that the court is launching a major restructuring to prepare for a 2013-14 deficit that could reach $80 million, The Recorder reported.

Union representatives stood outside a downtown courthouse wearing stickers that said, "Justice has left the building."

In October, Mary Hearn, spokeswoman for Los Angeles County Superior Court, warned that civil and small claims caseloads would be consolidated from the San Fernando courthouse to Chatsworth to centralize court’s resources.

Presiding Judge Edmon and Assistant Presiding Judge David Wesley told the Associated Press that the nation's largest court system will also eliminate court reporters for civil cases.

Civil litigants will be required to hire their own stenographers if they want to preserve the court record, the Associated Press reported.

"We sincerely regret having to reduce our services to the public," said Edmon, who predicted longer delays in getting civil cases to trial and administrative problems for judges who must share courtrooms and staff.

"Some judges may have to take notes on the evidence," Edmon told the Associated Press.

"Could we be heading toward five year delays getting to trial?" Edmon asked. "I certainly think so."

Although 24 criminal courtrooms are among those to close, Judge Lance Ito, who presided over the O.J. Simpson murder trial in 1995, will handle complex, lengthy trials.

"He's a utility player for us," Wesley told the Associated Press. "There are not many people that can handle every kind of case. ... When we need him, we know he will step in."

"It's devastating to the court system and it's going to be a sea change in how we do our business," Edmon told the Times.

"Unfortunately, there are going to be longer lines in each of our courthouses and great delays throughout the system."

-- City News Service, the Associated Press, The Recorder, the Los Angeles Times and KHTS radio contributed to this report.

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Leigh Datzker November 16, 2012 at 07:09 AM
The Chatsworth Courthouse is under utilized and it could be an experiemental project if the civil courthouse is expanded to include family law and probate. The third floor should be built for family law courtrooms, which would not need jury boxes, allowing more modern courtrooms for bench officers, with a locale that's convenient to nearby family friendly eateries and the mall, which could get some business from court personnel and visitors during the lunch breaks. The addition of family law courtrooms might also spurn office space rentals for attorneys, mediators, and child custody evaluators across Winnetka and along the Nordhoff corridor. Perhaps it is time to create an innovative use for an under utilized courthouse that could save milions of dollars needed to monitor an aging Van Nuys and San Fernando family law courts. Perhaps our councilman can spearhead this effort to utilize the Chatsworth Courthouse as an innovative center for justice during these hard times.
Jo November 17, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Yet again, taxation goes up and services go down. Now, with Democrats having super majority in the state legislature and with Jerry Brown, our state is doomed to every higher taxation and drastically cut services. With court house closures comes more criminals on our streets for longer time frames. Jerry Brown is the one that allowed government employees to unionize and look at the service reductions that has caused. Street sweeping was every 4 weeks on open routes (no parking ticket location) but now it is maybe twice a year. 3 guys to clean out all storm drains for the entire SFV...it's going to get uglier and uglier. They put those lousy grates into the storm drains so now without any street sweeping to speak of, the drains have become planters! Who are the morons who voted all these Democrats into office? Unemployment had never been above 8% in CA until 4 years ago when Obama came into office. Starting in 2009 it has been well over 10% with Los Angeles' rate at almost 12% unemployed. 1/3 of all US welfare recipients are in CA. CA is a sanctuary state; we use our tax dollars to advertise Cal Fresh (food stamps) and the ads even run in Mexico. food stamp recipients went from 32 million 4 years ago to 47 million now, thanks to Obama! How's that hope & change working? How about our 401k's tanking by 5% since Obama's reelection? How about all those businesses who are changing full time employees to part time due to Obama Care? How about health ins. going up $2500?

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