Year in review: Court cases slowly move through system amid cuts
Posted: December 26, 2012 2:00 a.m.
By Jim Holt
Signal Senior Staff Writer
Justice served for crimes committed in the Santa Clarita Valley is expected to be a lot slower, in fewer locations and with a lot less hired help in the new year, court officials report.
Courtroom cutbacks expected this spring will include the closure of courtrooms at 10 courthouse locations in Los Angeles County, including rooms in the San Fernando Superior Court where felony cases originating in the Santa Clarita Valley are heard, said Mary Eckhardt Hearn, Director of Public Information for Los Angeles Superior Court.
“It is crushing,” she said describing the upcoming cuts.
“In 2002, the Superior Court in Los Angeles had its first layoffs ever in its history,” she said. “Those layoffs pale in comparison to those seen in 2010, in 2012 and next year. Never in anybody’s wildest imagination would we think of such layoffs,” she said. “In 10 years, we will have lost a quarter of our resources.”
In July, The Signal reported that an estimated 341 court staffers will be affected by “across-the-board” budget cuts in four areas, according to officials at Los Angeles County Superior Court.
More cuts are coming, officials told The Signal.
“An additional round of layoffs are scheduled for June 2013,” Hearn said. “At that time the remainder of (civil) court reporters will be gone.”
Cutbacks handed down in 2010 eliminated three-fifths of the civil court reporters — those who transcribe civil court proceedings.
It meant people filing lawsuits had to pay for their own court reporters in order to acquire transcripts of the proceedings.
The last cutbacks eliminated civil reporters on three days of the working week, meaning they worked only two days of the week.
The next found of cutbacks will eliminate them completely, Hearn said.
“Civil courts are taking the biggest hit,” she said.
A look at pending criminal cases for which the residents of Santa Clarita Valley await justice, the list is long with many cases bumped from one month to the next without resolve.
When asked about courtroom cutbacks, one clerk at San Fernando Superior Court told The Signal last week: “I’m 16 years in and I’m still on the chopping block. I don’t know what it’s going to take to change things,” she said.
“Maybe when some killer goes free and kills someone else maybe, they’ll do something?”
Several court cases stemming from crimes committed in the Santa Clarita Valley have been heard over several court dates, but have yet to go to trial:
Eric Allen Earle — arrested Sept. 1, 2011, on a felony murder charge in the death of his live-in girlfriend Karla Brada. Prior to being charged with the felony, he appeared on misdemeanor charges on Sept. 6, 2011; Sept. 30, 2011; Nov. 10, 2011; Jan. 19, 2012; Apr. 12; June 6; July 20; Aug. 23; Oct. 24; Nov. 29.
He was later charged Jan. 25, 2012, with felony murder. He’s appeared in court on Apr. 12; June 6; July 20; Aug. 23; Oct. 24 and Nov. 29. He is scheduled to appear in court for his third year in January.