With the arrival of the spring season here in California, one can expect much hand-wringing and head-scratching to accompany the yearly budget battles that loom large on the horizon.
As the state, and the rest of the nation for that matter, tries to place itself on better financial footing, hard legislative decisions must be made, decisions that are surely going to displease a good number of the electorate.
The proposal is expected to raise $30 million to offset expected cuts to the court system, which includes 58 trial courts, six courts of appeal and the state Supreme Court.
Currently, there is no charge to search for a court file. However, a $15 charge is applied whenever a court worker has to spend more than 10 minutes to look up cases.
The governor’s proposal would also allow a person to search for free for a case in which that person is a party. Unfortunately, that same person would be charged $10 for each additional search.
The administrative director of the courts calls the move an act of “self-preservation.” We see it more as an act of self-immolation. The move would do unjust damage to the public’s access to open records.
The state enjoys quite a favorable reputation when it comes to its accessibility of public records in comparison to other places. Aside from the financial burden it would impose on the general public, as well as the news media, this proposal would erode some of that precious public records accessibility the Golden State enjoys.
What makes the matter all the more questionable is a recent state audit of the court’s administrative body that revealed a large amount of discrepancies when it came to its procurement of goods or services.
While the report did not cite any outright fraud, it did note a considerable amount of inaccurate data and incorrectly paid amounts.
We certainly understand the need for the state, and in this case its courts system, to find ways to offset cuts. We just hope this is not the way they decide to do so.
THE ISSUE: Proposed $10 charge for court records search.
WE SAY: Public access should remain unrestricted.
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