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California

L.A. Superior Court doesn’t have to reopen shuttered courthouses, appeals panel rules

Protest against court cutbacks in 2013

Protesters march in 2013 to oppose the closure of courthouses in Los Angeles County.

 

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Federal judges are barred from ordering Los Angeles Superior Court to reopen closed courthouses, a U.S. appeals panel decided Tuesday.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals threw out a lawsuit brought by nonprofit groups seeking to restore far-flung courthouses that hear landlord efforts to evict tenants, usually because of unpaid rent.

“Out of respect for the independence of state judiciaries, a federal court cannot substitute its judgment for [the L.A. Superior Court’s] resource allocation choices,” Judge Jacqueline H. Nguyen, an Obama appointee, wrote for a three-judge panel.

The 9th Circuit nevertheless agreed that “two recessions and a decade of budget cuts have dramatically transformed the Los Angeles County Superior Court,” the largest trial court in the country.

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Nguyen noted that 20 of 58 Los Angeles courthouses have closed since 2000 and that the county’s “prized neighborhood court model” had become too expensive.

The lawsuit was prompted by the reduction of 26 neighborhood courthouses to five “hub” courts that hear eviction proceedings in Long Beach, Santa Monica, downtown Los Angeles, Pasadena and Lancaster.

Since the suit was filed in 2013, Los Angeles has added hub courts in Norwalk and Van Nuys, the 9th Circuit said.

In addition to closing courthouses, Los Angeles also laid off and furloughed workers, raised fees and fines, shuttered courtrooms and eliminated services. Courts throughout the state made similar cuts in response to a loss of state revenue.

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Twitter:  @mauradolan 


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