In a tersely worded announcement on the Los Angeles Superior Court’s “Update” website, the largest court system in the world describes drastic immediate cutbacks that could bring the delivery of justice to a trickle if not a complete collapse.

According to a November 27 “Court Update,” Court administrators announced that the system has been told to “permanently cut its budget by $55 million to $86 million” within the next six months. These draconian cuts will be added to more than $100 million in budgetary cuts over the past two years.

To comply with these drastic budget cuts, the Los Angeles County Court system will close ten courthouses and assign all personal injury cases to one of two Judges, each of whom will be required to personally manage as many as 8,000 cases.

To help its Judges deal with the enormous caseload increase, the Court will stop monitoring the service of the documents that bring defendants into court in the first place – Summons and Complaints. Monitoring the service of these documents is what permits the Court to manage its gargantuan caseload from the start – requiring parties to serve those documents and set initial status conferences or lose the right to proceed.

The Court also announced that it will soon seek local rule changes permitting it to terminate its practice of setting case management conferences in personal injury cases – conferences that often resulted in their dismissal for lack of service or the entry of judgment against a Defendant who failed to answer the Complaint.

The Court will also stop requiring the parties in personal injury cases to report back to it the results of any mediation held for the purpose of settling the case – an event which is often the sole reason lawyers are spurred to move their cases to mediation in the first place.

by Victoria Pynchon

CONTINUING READING: http://www.forbes.com/sites/shenegotiates/2012/12/05/public-justice-nears-collapse-in-wake-of-california-budget-cuts/

Victoria Pynchon is an attorney-mediator and arbitrator. She is also a principal in the She Negotiates Consulting and Training firm for which her blog “She Negotiates” is named. In addition to writing for the Forbes.com legal blog “On the Docket,” Pynchon also authored the book “A is for A**hole, the Grownups' ABCs of Conflict Resolution.