The employees' union of California courts expressed outrage Friday over the 3.5-percent pay raise for the state's top court officials while thousands of workers have been laid off.
On behalf of the 18,000 court employees who do the front-line work to deliver justice, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) California released a statement to express anger over salary raise.
"We are appalled that the highest court officer in California, the Chief Justice would sacrifice the ability of families, children and businesses to access justice in a bid to shower unjustifiable raises on top court bureaucrats," said Arnella Sims, a member of SEIU Local 721 Executive Board.
While Bob Schoonover, president of SEIU Local 721, said in a statement: "This is a slap in the face of court workers and taxpayers, who count on the services our members provide. We've just gone through another round of cuts and court closures, and working families were hit hard."
"Now, the state's top court officials are giving themselves a raise. This kind of thing should never happen. We need more funding to keep trial courts open, not to give top executives a higher paycheck," Schoonover said.
According to the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) in California, 39 courthouses across California have been completely shuttered. Another 77 courtrooms in still-open courthouses are closed, and 30 courts have reduced hours.
Court workers have raised concerns over misplaced priorities and wasteful spending by the judicial bureaucracy, including a 1.9-billion-dollar computer boondoggle.
The California Chief Justice's action comes after the AOC lobbied intensely in the last state budget debate to divert to the centralized bureaucracy court funding.
The funds intended to re-open shuttered courts, re-hire pink-slipped workers and reduce the backlog of cases piling up in court hallways.
Los Angeles County Superior Court has completed the elimination of 511 positions in July as the court system grapples with a projected 85-million-dollar budget shortfall for the coming fiscal year.
The move will result in 177 layoffs, 139 workers who will be demoted with pay cuts, 223 who will be transferred to new work locations and some positions that will remain unfilled.
All told, the action will impact 539 court employees, according to court officials.
The cuts of services in court have caused delay for thousands of Californians who must wait up to four times as long as normal to get their day in court.
Some residents now have to wait five years or longer to have their civil complaints heard by a judge or jury.