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Budget cuts delay ruling

Paperwork for sentencing arrives late due to overworked staff, judge says.

April 22, 2010|By Veronica Rocha

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge last week cited budget and staffing cuts before postponing the sentencing of a Glendale man who pleaded no contest to possessing child porn and an assault rifle.

Appearing frustrated inside his courtroom, Superior Court Judge William Ryan said recent budget cuts to the court system were taking their toll on overworked staff, and said it was the reason he had only just received papers from the defense team for Walter Loustari.

The paperwork had been filed at the downtown court Wednesday.

“I am sorry the courts are so overwhelmed because of the budget crisis,” Ryan said.

Court staffers, he said, were struggling to get documents pushed through because they had larger workloads.

Loustari, an attorney with an office in La Cañada Flintridge, was arrested in October 2008 after Glendale police and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials discovered he had accessed child pornography on the Internet, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

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Attorneys had the option of waiting three hours for Ryan to read the documents, or postpone the sentencing for another day. The attorneys opted to push Loustari’s case to April 30.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Presiding Judge Charles “Tim” McCoy Jr. acknowledged that recent budget cuts had begun to affect operations.

Since the cutbacks, the court system’s ability to process paperwork has slowed down, he said. As a result, judges have had to push court cases to later dates, McCoy added.

“It’s taking longer to get matters settled,” he said.

Other judges have also expressed their opinions in open court about the impact of the system’s budget crisis, McCoy said.

That day, Ryan told attorneys in the bustling courtroom that he had 29 court matters on his calendar.

Some busy traffic courts also see about the same workload because law enforcement officials are writing out more tickets, said Patricia Kelly, a court spokeswoman.

The county court system laid off 329 employees March 16 and plans to close 17 courtrooms.

Additional cutbacks are expected later this year with the potential elimination of 50 courtrooms and an additional 156 jobs, court officials said.

The system’s budget deficit is expected to be $140 million in the next four years, which may result in 1,800 positions being eliminated, they added.


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