The Cost of Court Inefficiencies

Posted By Mark Baer || 26-Oct-2015

I felt compelled to document on my blog the Facebook status update I posted while in court this morning for people to more easily find. The posting was as follows:

I'm in court to walk a stipulated judgment through. It is now 9:52 a.m. and the judge has yet to take the bench for the 8:30 a.m. calendar. Meanwhile, people are paying their lawyers to sit and do nothing while the judge takes his sweet time.

It seems to me that referring to our legal system as a "justice system" is completely false and misleading, at least according to my definition of justice, which is synonymous with fairness. What's fair about our "justice system"? Unless I am missing something, this is just one of an infinite number of examples of a system that has no respect for those it is meant to serve.

I should also point out that all the staff working in these courtrooms are paid with taxpayer money. The court reporter is reading a catalog of items on sale, if that gives you some idea of wasteful spending.

The judge finally took the bench at 9:53 a.m.

Once the judge finally took the bench, he was very respectful to the litigants and their attorneys.

As of 2002, it cost more than $9,000.00 a day to operate a courtroom in Los Angeles. This includes the cost of the judge and court staff in the courtroom. Please note that that estimate was as of 2002 and is probably higher now. However, using that figure, it costs $1,125.00 per hour to operate a courtoom in Los Angeles. Now, I realize that it takes time to check people in and that judges should not take the bench until that has been completed. However, it takes less than 30 minutes to complete that task. If a judge takes the bench 30 to 60 minutes after check-in has been completed, then it is costing $562.50 to $1,125.00 per courtroom as a result of that delay (using 2002 cost figures).

For the 2013-2014 fiscal year, the Los Angeles Superior Court had 483 authorized judicial positions and 103 authorized subordiate judicial officers (such as commissioners and referees). Assuming that each of those positions was filled and each judicial officer took the bench 30 to 60 minutes after completion of check-in, it would cost the taxpayers between $329,625.00 and $655,875.00 per day for nothing (using 2002 cost figures). Moreover, this does not take into account the cost to litigants for having their lawyers and other professionals do nothing but wait and the cost of the litigants' own lost time.

Talk about governmental waste, among other things!