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Chief Justice: California is facing a 'civil rights crisis'

California's Chief Justice, Tani Cantil-Sakauye, is telling state legislators that budget cuts have seriously affected Californians' access to the judicial system. Among the types of cases she cites as being impacted by these cuts are those involving workplace issues, such as wrongful termination and discrimination.

The budget for California courts has been slashed by close to $1 billion in recent years. According to the chief justice, people who work for the court system have not received a cost-of-living raise in seven years. Even the California Supreme Court has had to furlough some of its employees. Some courts have even had to close.

In an advanced copy of a speech, which she released to the media, Cantil-Sakauye tells state lawmakers that the closure of these courts and the budget cuts have put California "on the verge of a civil rights crisis." Some residents are required to drive several hours to reach the nearest courthouse, and others are waiting a long time before their cases go to trial. In addition to "harmful and astonishing delays" for discrimination and wrongful termination cases as well as personal injury claims, the chief justice notes that family law matters, even urgent ones, are sometimes delayed.

Cantil-Sakauye says the judicial branch of California government is trying to do its part to help litigants. However, she is asking the California legislature to put some of the funds cut from the courts back into next year's budget. Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed a budget increase of $105 million for the state court system, but Cantil-Sakauye says far more is needed. She says that more than twice that amount is necessary "just to tread water," and over $1 billion is required over the next few years just to rebound from the impact of previous budget cuts.

Despite the budget constraints that our judicial system is currently under, those who believe they have been illegally fired or discriminated against in the workplace should not hesitate to seek legal guidance. Experienced California employment attorneys can assist their clients in navigating the justice system and help ensure that their rights are protected, despite delays and inconveniences that may occur, as they seek justice.

Source: The Los Angeles Times, "California's chief justice asks legislators to help rebuild courts" Maura Dolan, Mar. 17, 2014

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