The courthouse wait times and long lines at the William R. Ridgeway Family Relations Courthouse have made national news. A New York Times article about budget cuts to California courts included a photo of the public counter line at the Sacramento County family courthouse. Overlooked by the East Coast reporter was the fact that the long line pictured wasn’t the queue to get service at the public counter. As any court customer may have recognized, the line pictured was the line to get a ticket to be able to continue waiting in the inside public counter bleacher area.
What the presiding judge said about the wait times:
In January, 2011 the California State Auditor released its review of the Sacramento and Marin County family courts. The highlights of the report revealed the following about the Sacramento Family Court:
- Did not have training documents and other information that could demonstrate that its staff met the minimum qualifications and training requirements to perform mediations and evaluations.
- Does not always ensure that its evaluators satisfy the qualifications required by law.
- Has not adhered to the superior court’s established employee appraisal policy.
- Lacks documentation demonstrating that the private mediators, private evaluators, and minor’s counsel on its lists of professionals it deems qualified and some it has appointed have necessary qualifications.
- Inconsistently followed its established process for dealing with complaints about its mediators.
The scope of the audit was limited to the court’s use of court appointees in child custody disputes. But in his four-page response to the audit, Sacramento County Superior Court Presiding Judge Steve White acknowledged the long public counter wait times, and explained the cause.
The Sacramento Superior Court has been hard hit by the state’s ongoing fiscal crisis. Ours is one of a number of courts statewide that has historically been underfunded and the current state budget deficit has deepened our court’s financial burden. Although we have been able to keep our doors open to the public, this has not been accomplished without sacrifice. The family law court, as is the situation with all our operations, has had to manage with significantly reduced staffing levels. This has resulted in backlogs in the processing of court filings and two to five-hour wait times at the family law court’s public counter.
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