The Los Angeles County Superior Court system will close one of 18 courtrooms at its branch in response to massive state budget cuts.
"There is a courtroom in Santa Monica—Department I—that will not reopen," said spokeswoman Mary Hearn.
The judge who ran that department, Jacqueline Connor, has retired, and the plan is to keep the doors shut as the court system is forced to make $48 million in reductions to manage its share of $350 million in cuts at the state level.
The closure means it will likely take longer for cases to be heard as the ones that would have been managed in Department I are reassigned to other courtrooms, according to Hearn.
"There are only so many [cases] that can be heard in a day," she said. "Daily calendars either have to expand to accommodate additional caseloads ... or hearing dates have to be set further out into the future."
The Santa Monica courthouse is one of 47 in Los Angeles County.
The courthouse, the site of trials and court proceedings for celebrities including O.J. Simpson, Lindsay Lohan and Michael Jackson, is a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean. Offices include small claims, traffic, family law and alternative dispute resolution, among others.
Department I heard general civil claims.
About , the last day of the fiscal year. Over the past two years, it has lost more than 500 staffers to layoffs and attrition—10 percent of its workforce.
"As staffing dwindles while caseloads and the complexity of our work continue to increase, any additional staffing reductions now cut into the core work of the court: courtroom staffing," according to a March 5 memo from Presiding Judge Lee Smalley Edmon and Executive Officer and Clerk John Clarke.
But Hearn said it's too early to say how many employees will receive pink slips at the Santa Monica courthouse. She estimates that 350 staffers will be laid off across the county.
The layoffs will be determined by seniority.
"We have approximately 4,800 court employees, so all of their records need to be evaluated," Hearn said. "So it’s a very big job to do all of that analysis."
More details are expected by mid-June, she said.