Court workers and union representatives from as far away as Los Angeles gathered in front of the Administrative Office of the Courts headquarters in San Francisco today to voice their complaints about proposed budget cuts that could close courtrooms once a month.
S.F. City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who is sailing unopposed toward re-election in five months, joined Public Defender Jeff Adachi on the picket line. Both could be seen chatting as they ambulated the shaded sidewalk in front the AOC building, which also houses the state Supreme Court and First District Court of Appeal.
Both Herrera and Adachi did their best impersonations of Michael Collins when they took the mic, trying to rouse the crowd of perhaps 100 to 150 placard-wielding protestors.
“Certain issues need to be off the board completely,” Herrera said, referring to the idea, proposed by the AOC, of shutting courthouse doors to save money. “Whether it be criminal courts or civil courts, the courts need to stay open.”
What do want? Adachi’s jokes! When do want ’em? After the jump!
He made a few “justice” puns (“We all know that means ‘just us,’” and, referring to S.F.’s criminal courthouse, “We call it the ‘Hall of Injustice’”) before praising the gathered clerks, court reporters and staff as “the people who give a human touch to the justice system.” He also plugged his own office’s budget tribulations: a potential 25 percent cut that may show up in Mayor Gavin Newsom’s budget proposal next week.
When union negotiators from the SEIU and AFSCME emerged from negotiations they had been having inside with AOC Administrative Director William Vickrey, they said Vickrey had agreed to get back to them after a meeting Friday with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, which despite sounding like a punt seemed to please the crowd, judging by the cheers and applause.
The protestors homed in on some key talking points, the most oft-repeated of which was the AOC’s decision to spend $1.95 billion over the next five years on computer projects, including an overhaul of court case management systems. Why couldn’t that project wait until better times, several people asked.
Carolyn Balistreri, a clerk at San Francisco’s civil courthouse, said the AOC hadn’t been dealing honestly with its employees, or communicating very well, about its budget or the need for furloughs.
Furthermore, she noted, closing courthouses means denying services to a populace that’s only going to get more stressed as the economy continues to slog through the doldrums.
— Evan Hill