PBC Clerk to Senate Prez: Access to justice in your handsby Dara Kam | March 30th, 2010
Nearly half of the phone calls to the Palm Beach County courthouse will go unanswered and people could wait for up to four hours to get served in person under budget cuts slipped into the Senate budget with little warning last week, county clerk Sharon Bock warned in a letter to Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach.a
“Access to justice has already been severely compromised in Palm Beach County,” Bock wrote. “Further cuts will cause court cases to languish without any foreseeable resolution.”
Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander cut the clerks’ budget $23 million statewide – a $2.7 million cut in Palm Beach County – in a last minute amendment filed less than an hour before his budget meeting began on Thursday.
The Senate is expected to vote on the budget tomorrow. Palm Beach County Democratic Sens. Dave Aronberg and Ted Deutch filed an amendment to restore the clerks’ $23 million Alexander cut using a complicated formula that bases their budgets on per-case costs.
Bock said she would stop offering walk-in service at courthouses in Belle Glade, Palm Beach Gardens and Delray Beach, forcing the downtown courthouse to handle another 324,000 customers if the cuts go through.
Bock axed 101 workers last year after taking a $7.1 million budget hit and said she will have to lay off another 100 under the current plan, a 23 percent reduction in staff.