Ongoing state budget cuts are to blame for San Mateo County's Superior Court cutting as many as 25 positions and closing five courtrooms in its South San Francisco and San Mateo branches, the court announced Thursday (Jan. 31).
The reductions include eliminating five court commissioner positions and as many as 21 staff positions, and suspending the majority of court services in the South San Francisco and San Mateo branches, according to Court Executive Officer John Fitton.
Presiding Judge Robert D. Foiles said it is "extremely disappointing" that the governor's January budget fails to restore funding to the trial courts. Should the funding not return, the elimination of the court commissioners could happen in July and the remaining workforce reductions in September.
"This is unprecedented, and we've been saying this since 2008, and it continues to get worse," Mr. Fitton said.
The court has eliminated 120 positions since 2008 and now consists of 265 employees, not counting judges. Of those 120 positions, only 27 were cut through layoffs three years ago, Mr. Fitton said.
The court has made cost reductions in other areas including in the clerk's office and in traffic and small claims, family court and complex litigation court in Redwood City.
Trial courts throughout the state have seen state budget cuts of more than $1 billion over the past five years. In some cases, this has resulted in closures of entire courthouses, not just courtrooms.
Mr. Fitton said his office will make every attempt to influence the governor and state legislators to halt cuts to the state's judicial branch, which makes up about 2 percent of the state budget. "Why it's gotten hit so disproportionately, I can't speak to."