State Budget Surplus Means More Money for Courts
With California projecting a $97.5 billion budget surplus this year, the California judicial branch is poised to reap the rewards of additional investment in court programs, infrastructure, and personnel. Governor Gavin Newsom’s January budget proposal included an additional $891 million in funding to advance equal access to justice. The Governor’s May Revision to his proposed budget kept nearly all of that and added another $200 million. Legislators, who have the final say over the spending plan, are still hammering out the spending plan details. Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauke described the additional funds as “a significant investment in the judicial branch, supporting our efforts to expand access to justice and recover from pandemic-related challenges.”
II. NEW JUDGESHIPS, UPGRADED TECHNOLOGY, AND COURTHOUSE RENOVATION PROJECTS
The proposed budget included money to create 23 new superior court judgeships, upgrade technology, replace declining civil assessment revenues and build and modernize courthouse facilities. After the May Revise, Cantil-Sakauye highlighted the Governor’s proposal for a $1.2 million new Judicial Council unit dedicated to climate change and $39.5 million for his proposed CARE Act to help Californians with untreated mental health and substance abuse challenges. The money would cover the cost of additional hearings, expanded self-help centers, and updated court case management systems if the Legislature approves the court-ordered treatment program. Also added to the Governor’s spending plan in May:
- $29.7 million to renovate the San Diego Hall of Justice, including repairs to elevators, escalators, and the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system.
- $24.3 million to make room for 17 new judgeships in Fresno, Kern, Madera, Placer, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Stanislaus counties.
- $15.3 million to correct fire, life, and safety deficiencies at the East County Regional Center in San Diego County.
- $11.3 million in additional funding for fire, life, and safety system improvements at the Central Justice Center in Orange County.
- $10.7 million for the design-build of a new Lakeport Courthouse in Lake County.
- $9.1 million for the design-build of a new Ukiah Courthouse in Mendocino County.
- $158,000 for a Juvenile Hall addition and renovation in Butte County.
- $6.6 million for the construction of the new Modesto Courthouse in Stanislaus County, including the cost to build out a courtroom for a new judgeship.
- $29.6 million to make space for five new judgeships in existing trial court facilities in Kings, Sacramento, San Joaquin, and Sutter counties.
“We thank the Governor for his continuing commitment to sustainable funding for the judicial branch and the major investments necessary to ensure that all Californians can access their justice system,” she said at the time of the May Revision.
III. LEGISLATURE TO APPROVE FINAL BUDGET
Further details of the Governor’s budget proposals, along with the final budget to be approved by the Legislature this summer, can be found online here.