Walk down the halls of our outlying courthouses these days and at times you don’t meet a single soul. The perfect tsunami of court sustainability efforts in reaction to the legislative de-funding process has decimated our county-wide legal system. It is being washed away before your eyes.
The closure of courtrooms, layoffs of personnel, and limitation of court business office hours has impacted not only those who need a courthouse, but also those seeking a county law library.
As we witness the great tide of budget cuts dismantling the judicial branch of California government, so we are watching the slow and painful drowning of public law libraries. Long the great equalizer for all California residents to access justice and our courts, our law libraries in every county have suffered near-catastrophic revenue losses. Some are near closing in just a few months’ time. Like the courts, we have been forced to slash budgets, leaving less resources for personnel, collections, technology, and now hours of operation.
On a trial basis (no pun intended), we have reduced hours at the South Bay law library. Still open Monday through Friday, but now only during the hours we have seen higher use, from 9 am to 1 pm. That way attorneys doing court business will find that we are open for them, and people who have a case or a free lunch hour will get our help. Our statistics show that in afternoons there is less need. At other times, of course, we are open at all other branches and are available there for research help in person and by phone, email, and text too. We just do not have enough people to go around to staff all four branches full time every day of the week.
The system is broke and it ain’t fixable. The legislature knows it. The courts know it. We know it. And now you know it too. We stand in solidarity with our courts and ask for your patience while we do everything in our power to make things work during very serious financial strains.
What can you do to help? Call or write your legislator today. Those communications will become the lifeboat — life preserver — raft — or flotation device the courts and law libraries need to stem the tide. Thanks for standing with us at this difficult time.