Nearly a 10th of LA County Courtrooms to Close, Including Judge Ito's

Budget cuts to force closure of 56 LA County courtrooms

By Melissa Pamer
|  Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012  |  Updated 5:16 PM PDT
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Top News Photos: Los Angeles

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File photo: Judge Lance Ito oversees a drive-by shooting murder case on May 20, 2004, nearly 10 years after he presided over the high-profile case of former football star, O.J. Simpson, accused of murdering Nicole Brown-Simpson.

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Budget cuts are set to force the Los Angeles County court system to close 56 courtrooms, including that of its most famous adjudicator, Judge Lance Ito.

The courtroom controlled by the man who presided over O.J. Simpson’s 1995 murder trial will be shut down by June 30, the Associated Press reported. Ito will be reassigned to fill in on cases in which no judge is available, AP said.

The closures mean nearly a 10th of the courtrooms in the nation's largest trial court system will go dark, said Mary Hearn, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Superior Court.

The county courts will also lay off 350 workers, reduce use of court reporters and eliminate Informal Juvenile Traffic Courts.

Presiding Judge Lee Smalley Edmon called the cuts “extraordinary actions.”

“We are already rationing justice,” she said in a press release.

State budget cuts have meant a $562 million reduction in spending for California’s courts, the county press release said.

The county court system has cut $70 million, and now must slash $30 million more. In the last two years, it has laid off 329 workers and not filled another 229 court positions.

“Staffing reductions due to budget cuts over the past 10 years have forced our court to reduce staffing by 24 percent, while case filings continue to increase,” Edmon said. “This has created incredible pressures on our court to keep up with our work. We cannot endure these pressures for much longer.”

The system will shut down 24 civil, 24 criminal, three family, one probate, and four juvenile delinquency courts in courthouses across the county. The cases currently in those courtrooms will be redistributed among the courtrooms remaining open.

Judges who no longer have courtrooms will work on settlement conferences or will share staff with judges who continue to run their own courtrooms, Hearn said.

Court reporters will no longer be provided for civil trials beginning May 15.

“It saddens me to have to make these layoffs,” Edmon said. “These actions are affecting people who have made a commitment to public service, to justice."

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