Budget Cuts Hit Legal Aid, Courts

Two news articles last week focused on the financial hardships hitting legal aid programs and courts around the country. The first, from WRCB-TV, looked at the impact of a $5 million cut expected to hit Puerto Rico's Legal Services offices -– a reduction officials say will force attorneys to drop at least 7,000 civil cases. The second, from News Channel 5, focused on widespread layoffs in the Los Angeles County court system. Officials there say the cutbacks will affect 431 employees and 56 courtrooms. The budget-cutting plan also ends the county's innovative juvenile traffic courts, removes court reporters from civil trials and consolidates restraining order processing. With alot unkown about the future, one court clerk lamented that while the "commitment of our judicial officers and staff to preserve access to justice is unwavering…our ability to follow through on that commitment may soon be exhausted."