Coalinga, Firebaugh, Reedley, Sanger and Selma will lose their Superior Court branches July 30th. Clovis and Kingsburg will close their doors August 6th. The Fresno County Superior Court says this comes as a result of Governor Brown's new budget announced May 14th, that delivered massive cuts to California's courts.
"We are greatly dissapointed, concerned and in fact angry about the consequesnces those cuts will have on our ability to provide access to the courts," said Presiding Judge, Gary Hoff.
Fresno County Superior Court's operating budget is $34 million for next fiscal year, but more than $26 million isn't funded by the state, and the courts are also losing their reserves. "And will affect the meaningful access to justice that our citizens expect and deserve under the constitution," said Judge Hoff.
Residents of rural communities will now have to attend court in Fresno, except for juveniles. In some cases, people will have the option to reschedule dates for convenience. Other matters, like traffic violations, can be handled online, over the phone by using Court Call or with a Trial by Declaration. Saving residents a trip to Downtown Fresno. "For the cost of a couple stamps and envelopes access to justice can be obtained," said Assistant Presiding Judge, Gary Orozco.
The 40 employees from branches that are closing will be transferred. 70 staff positions will be cut through attrition and layoffs.
"This has been devastating and we're doing the best that we can. we regret that the governor's budget has forced us to curtail public access to the courts and that it impacts our wonderful employees," said an emotional Tamara Beard, the Court Executive Officer.
Fresno County Superior Court serves thousands of people every day, they feel they will be able to accomodate everyone by reworking the court calendar, despite the increase in traffic.
Because the state budget isn't finalized yet, the courts fear they could see more cuts.