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Cuts To San Diego County Courts Are Affecting Families

Shawn Weber, a family law attorney with Brave, Weber & Mack and the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego, talks to KPBS.

This past weekend, family court judges and attorneys brainstormed about their concerns over budget cuts to California's court system. Since last summer, budget cuts approved by California lawmakers hit the state's court system very hard. Overall, $500 million was sliced from the courts.

In San Diego, that has translated to $14 million in cuts, and it's part of a three-year budget trimming plan which cuts a total of 21 percent from San Diego court budgets.

Personnel layoffs, cutbacks in services and courtrooms are primarily affecting civil courts, and therefore most family court cases, said Shawn Weber, a family law attorney with Brave, Weber & Mack and the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego. Everything from child support and custody issues to divorce proceedings may be backlogged with court staff reduction and shuttering of some courtrooms.

"Everything will be impacted because the calendar will be impacted, and there will be less personel to push paperwork through the court system," he said.

But he said domestic abuse and restraining order cases will still rise to the top of courts' priorities.

Weber also said clients will now have to pay for court reporters if they want them.

"As lawyers, we spend a lot of time trying to build a record for the case," he said. "That's no longer going to be available if you don't have a court reporter available in the court room. You can bring your own, but you do have to pay for that."

"There's nothing that poorer clients can do to get a waiver," he added.

That creates concern that the justice system will favor people with more money, he said.

Local lawyers are looking for ways to volunteer for the court system to work with the budget cuts, he said.

Claire Trageser contributed to this report.

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