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Protesters rally against L.A. Court layoffs

March 17, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Both angry and vocal, more than a hundred Los Angeles Superior Court employees staged a rally Wednesday to protest staff layoffs and planned courtroom closures.They marched from the Stanley Mosk Courthouse to the Ronald Reagan State Office Building earlier Wednesday. They were protesting Tuesday's layoffs and warning that the public will suffer when the already stressed court system gets even more backlogged.

A loud protest on the streets of downtown a day after 329 L.A. County Superior Court employees lost their jobs. It's the first round of layoffs in a plan to eliminate 1,800 positions over the next three years, shrinking the court system by 34 percent.

"I'm fighting for justice," said protester Charlotte Ramos. "I'm fighting for all of us yesterday that were laid off. It's unfair. There's money in the budget."

Demonstrators blame the Administrative Office of the Courts, which manages the court system, and is facing a $79-million budget shortfall. They say the AOC is setting aside money for unnecessary projects when it should be saving jobs.

"There is money available," said protester Ciara Tymony. "The administrative office of the courts has funds available but they want to buy a fancy new computer system and make fancy courtrooms that won't have employees because they're laying them off."

The protesters are urging legislators to reverse the layoffs warning that the already backlogged court system will fail the public if layoffs continue.

"People need the courts to take care of their business and if they show up and the courts are closed, you know, what are they going to do?" said protester Pearl Romero.

The worst to suffer, say protesters, will be the elderly, the poor, and thousands of foster children. In one child advocate program alone, eight supervisors were laid off, leaving just three paid staffers to handle the workload.

"We won't be able to advocate for our children or for our families and to keep them safe," said protester Marissa Ruiz.

The next round of layoffs is scheduled for September. Five-hundred court employees will lose their jobs, and another 530 will lose their jobs next fall.