Layoff notices are being delivered on Friday to 157 Los Angeles court employees and an additional 257 workers will be cut to part-time or transferred to new posts under a cost-cutting measure expected to save some $30 million, court officials said.
The cuts will affect nearly 1 out of 10 employees at the Los Angeles Superior Court, the largest trial court in the nation.
“This is the unfortunate human impact of the need to reduce our spending by $30 million,” said Presiding Judge Lee Smalley Edmon. “We are laying off people who are committed to serving the public. It is a terrible loss both to these dedicated employees and to the public.”
On Friday, the body of a court employee was found near the loading dock area of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles, raising fears that the death was related to the layoffs.
The warehouse employee, Greg Nemo, died of apparent natural causes, a coroner's official said. Nemo had not been laid off.
The union representing state and municipal employees told the Associated Press Friday's action a "freeze on justice in Los Angeles" and warned that the county would experience "an end to timely justice" with cases being delayed for years, particularly in civil courts.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees -- AFSCME -- planned to have representatives on hand to assist employees who will not know they are losing their jobs until they are informed individually Friday, according to the AP.
The latest cuts are part of an ongoing series of cuts that began in April 2010.
The cuts made so far have saved $70 million.
The current actions will save another $30 million. Despite these cuts, the court faces future additional shortfalls as more reductions in state support for the trial courts are proposed for the Fiscal Year 2012-13 budget.
Governor Jerry Brown's budget proposal seeks to reduce judicial branch funding by another $544 million.
That means the LA courts will likely face additional mandatory reductions of more than $40 million during the next fiscal year.
“There will be more cuts next year, and their impacts will be severe," said Assistant Presiding Judge David Wesley. "The current cuts already affect the core work of court – the judge in the courtroom – while significant budget shortfalls remain. Given the significance of our responsibilities to protect public safety and children, the next round of reductions will further limit our ability to hear civil cases.”
Across-the-board cuts will eliminate 431 positions in four areas, totaling $30 million in ongoing savings.
• 157 people are being laid off,
• 108 people will lose 40 percent of their salaries when they are moved to a three-day-per-week schedule,
• 86 people will lose between 5 percent and 40 percent of their salary when they are reclassified to lower-level positions,
• 80 people are being transferred to new jobs, and typically new locations, because their old jobs have been eliminated.
Those being laid off will be given two weeks’ paid administrative leave, during which time they may attend Court-provided workshops on post-employment benefit issues.
By Friday, the LASC will have reduced the number of budgeted positions by 23 percent since 2002.
City News Service contributed to this report.