Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Budget cuts close 77 small-town Calif. courthouses; cases are sent to cities and videostreamed

Small-town courthouses are disappearing in California, forcing police, lawyers, defendants, plaintiffs, and anyone else involved in a case to shell out cash to travel to courts in nearby cities. State budget cuts are closing 77 courthouses, and many courts have already reduced hours at public service counters, Emily Green reports for NPR. (Photo by KFSN, Fresno: Seven courthouses in the Fresno area closed last week)

The small Northern California town of Coalinga once had a full-time judge and held jury hearings in town, but the judge was replaced by visiting judges, then eventually that stopped. "Now, in the wood-paneled courtroom, a large flat-screen television hangs where the podium used to be," Green reports. The television is used for video streaming for traffic court. Most cases are held an hour away in Fresno, and last year travel expenses cost the Coalinga Police Department around $25,000.

Gary Hoff, presiding judge of Fresno County Superior Court, told Green, "We knew that closing the courts would deny people in outlying jurisdictions the availability of going to a local courthouse to take care of their business. I know others have disagreed with our choice, but financially we could not do anything else but close those courts. We have to live within our budget." (Read more)

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