News

Palo Alto's traffic, small-claims courts set to close

Budget woes prompt Superior Court to move court functions to Santa Clara, San Jose

Faced with budget challenges, the Santa Clara County Superior Court announced Tuesday that it will be closing the small claims and traffic courts at the Palo Alto Courthouse in October.

In a statement, court officials called the closures "necessary due to the significant and continuing budget cuts to the State Judicial Branch Budget." The fiscal year 2014-15 court budget "does not make it fiscally feasible to keep these courts open."

"Since 2009, state funding for the judicial branch has been significantly reduced, with those reductions impacting the budgets of individual superior courts," the statement reads.

Cases that were scheduled to be heard in Palo Alto's small claims court will now be heard at the Downtown Courthouse at 191 North First St., San Jose. Traffic cases will now be heard at the Santa Clara Courthouse, 1095 Homestead Road, San Jose.

In addition to the Palo Alto courts, the Superior Court plans to close the civil, small claims and traffic courts in Morgan Hill, according to the announcement. Their functions will be transferred to courts in San Jose and Santa Clara.

The closures of local court services are the Superior Court's response to the 2014-15 budget, which increased funding for trial courts by $129 million, far less than what court officials say is needed. The court needed an influx of $262 million just to "break even," according to a statement by Santa Clara County Presiding Judge Brian C. Walsh, who chairs the Trial Court Presiding Judges Advisory Committee. The budget adjustment leaves court system $133 million short of the amount necessary to preserve existing services, Walsh said in a June 19 statement.

He called the budget a "great disappointment" for trial courts and predicted that the Superior Court will be forced to close courtrooms, cut resources in self-help centers and reduce services in the Clerk's Office.

"The harm to the public's access to justice will be as pronounced as it is unavoidable," Walsh said in June.

The closures announced Tuesday are scheduled to take effect Oct. 6.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 8:59 am

Will this make a difference to those of us called for jury duty?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 6, 2014 at 10:44 am

Budget woes my butt. This is the wealthiest county in the country. Sunnyvale and San Jose courts are a mess. I have to go to the courts at least three times a week. Most times when you go to the Sunnyvale court clerks office, there is only one window open because the clerks go on breaks together or are lunching or have something else to do. Waiting on that line can already take 45 minutes. Longer, if there is a court runner in line. Then add all of the people who can't afford an attorney asking a hundred questions, and it takes yet more time.

Downtown is a bit better, but not much. And, the parking situation is miserable. This isn't happening because of budget cuts, this is happening because this county is run by a whole lot of stupid.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Not enough
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2014 at 11:03 am

@enough: these are state budget cuts, not county. And they're real.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 6, 2014 at 11:05 am

Hmmm, no money in the state budget, but somehow Moonbeam found 42 million dollars to fund the DREAM Act BEFORE the parks accounting error was discovered. More, did you not read Prop 30? That's not just a tax for schools, it's a tax for ANYTHING Sacramento's little heart desires.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Attitude is everything.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 11:22 am

I have to say that the attitude of public servants across the board is getting pretty awful. I have a lot of interaction with many government offices and more and mere they seem to have the attitude that it is an imposition to actually serve the public and do their jobs.

I'd be less frustrated with union demands if their employees had a better work ethic. What makes public employees think it is okay to completely close up for lunch? Who does this outside of the public sector?

The DMV made us wait for over TWO hours for my daughter's driver test the other day. That was WITH an appointment. My husband had to sit through THREE long waits at the DMV to get his driver's license corrected because they kept printing his signature illegibly, making it useless as an identification document (which he needs in his line of work).

Palo Alto employees almost roll their eyes when they talk about the annoying citizens they have to serve. When I submitted plans to the Planning Dept for a simple kitchen remodel (replacing cabinets and appliances, windows and insulation on my 50-year old Eichler, I got attitude from the employee who waited on me about the rich Palo Alto residents doing projects. I'm not rich and it was a simple project with moderately priced materials and no major changes to existing structures. My contractor was appalled at her attitude.

The county is the same. the reason everything costs so much is we are overcompensating these employees with attitude problems.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dennis
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 6, 2014 at 11:29 am

I agree with "Attitude is everything" and would suggest that we quit using "attitude problems" as compensation.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dennis
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 6, 2014 at 11:29 am

I agree with "Attitude is everything" and would suggest that we quit using "attitude problems" as compensation.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2014 at 11:40 am

Hmmm is a registered user.

I'd love to see some facts for this comment: "the reason everything costs so much is we are overcompensating these employees with attitude problems."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 6, 2014 at 11:47 am

KP is a registered user.

I agree with enough!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 6, 2014 at 2:21 pm

>> Budget woes my butt. This is the wealthiest county in the country.

I totally agree with Enough ... what the hell is going on in this town/country. country?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by 37 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2014 at 3:51 pm

@CrescentParkAnon..what's going on in the city/county/state/country is democrats controlling spending of tax dollars and unions making demands on the cities, counties and state for skyrocketing salaries and benefit/pension plans which are bankrupting the state, no matter what fuzzy numbers Jerry throws at us.

Santa Clara just decided to spend 50K on housing, food and medical for the illegal kids that are being dumped into the U.S. at the southern border because of promises by the democrat in chief.

It's not hard to figure out.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by local
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 7:03 pm

@ Attitude,
While I'm with you on problems among employees at City Hall, I've actually been rather surprised at how well my experiences with the DMV have gone, given what they have to deal with. I'm not saying you have nothing to complain about, but my own experiences have actually been surprisingly good all things considered.

It's a travesty to close the court here when the closest is now so far away. I wonder if they will keep it open for just the rich people and companies like the DMV did the local office on Showers....


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