Faced with budget challenges, the Santa Clara County Superior Court announced Tuesday that it will be closing the small claims and traffic courts at the Palo Alto Courthouse in October.
In a statement, court officials called the closures "necessary due to the significant and continuing budget cuts to the State Judicial Branch Budget." The fiscal year 2014-15 court budget "does not make it fiscally feasible to keep these courts open."
"Since 2009, state funding for the judicial branch has been significantly reduced, with those reductions impacting the budgets of individual superior courts," the statement reads.
Cases that were scheduled to be heard in Palo Alto's small claims court will now be heard at the Downtown Courthouse at 191 North First St., San Jose. Traffic cases will now be heard at the Santa Clara Courthouse, 1095 Homestead Road, San Jose.
In addition to the Palo Alto courts, the Superior Court plans to close the civil, small claims and traffic courts in Morgan Hill, according to the announcement. Their functions will be transferred to courts in San Jose and Santa Clara.
The closures of local court services are the Superior Court's response to the 2014-15 budget, which increased funding for trial courts by $129 million, far less than what court officials say is needed. The court needed an influx of $262 million just to "break even," according to a statement by Santa Clara County Presiding Judge Brian C. Walsh, who chairs the Trial Court Presiding Judges Advisory Committee. The budget adjustment leaves court system $133 million short of the amount necessary to preserve existing services, Walsh said in a June 19 statement.
He called the budget a "great disappointment" for trial courts and predicted that the Superior Court will be forced to close courtrooms, cut resources in self-help centers and reduce services in the Clerk's Office.
"The harm to the public's access to justice will be as pronounced as it is unavoidable," Walsh said in June.
The closures announced Tuesday are scheduled to take effect Oct. 6.