ABA warns California can't 'cut justice'

The American Bar Association (ABA) is speaking out strongly against proposed additional cuts to the California courts budget, calling them "disastrous."

In a letter sent last week to Gov. Edmund ("Jerry") Brown and leaders of the California State Assembly, American Bar Association President Stephen N. Zack said the following:

"In the face of crisis, some facts become clearer than ever. One such fact is that you cannot --and must not -- cut justice any further.

"We recognize that the state of California is facing enormous, difficult and momentous budget decisions. But the recent attempt to slash yet another $150 million from the state courts budget is disastrous. One example is the impact the proposed cut would have on the San Francisco Superior Court alone. How is a court supposed to operate after losing nearly half its staff to layoffs?

"We know this is unacceptable to you, and to everyone who shares a belief in individual rights, liberty and fairness. The American Bar Association praises your veto of the budget proposal containing these cuts. We urge all California leaders to come together for better solutions and long-term reform.

"The ABA strongly supports state adoption of judicial branch budgeting that ensures adequate, stable, long-term funding of the courts in all economic conditions. This issue is so critical that the ABA this year formed a Task Force on Preservation of the Justice System, chaired by David Boies and Theodore B. Olson. The association is prepared to provide any appropriate help in addressing this crisis. And we urge you in the strongest terms possible to not allow any further budgetary attacks on the state's already besieged system of justice.

"Court underfunding results in delays and the elimination of services that shred the fundamental American promise of equal justice under law. Protecting courts protects the people and our constitutional democracy. We are all committed to that."

The letter is posted at www.abanow.org/wordpress/wp-content/files_flutter/1308946251zack_letter_to_brown_062311.pdf.

President Zack personally takes his case to California in a speech before the Commonwealth Club on July 14.

Published: Thu, Jun 30, 2011