CA budget cuts force Tulare Courthouse closure

TULARE, Calif.

The doors to the Tulare courthouse will close for good at the end of August. The closure will force area-residents to travel either to Porterville or Visalia for their court cases as the county court system makes $3 million in cost-saving reductions.

Notices were posted along the walls of the Tulare courthouse Thursday morning after county officials announced its permanent closure. "That's going to be pretty bad. There's going to be a lot of people upset," said Vincent Sanchez of Tulare. He came less than a mile from his house to pay off a traffic ticket. He wasn't too happy with the announcement. "Well it's not going to be good. It sounds like I'm going to have to start traveling to Visalia," said Sanchez.

Nearby residents will have to go to Visalia or Porterville once the Tulare courthouse closes on August 31st. The misdemeanor cases handled by the court will be transferred to the other courthouses – increasing their workloads.

"Not only will the Tulare city citizenry be affected but also the Visalia and Porterville areas will be affected because of the additional cases that are being brought in here," said Melinda Reed, Tulare County Superior Court presiding judge.

In addition, 26 people will be laid off throughout the county court system for a total savings of $3 million. "We are going to experience a significant reduction of management, courtroom, professional and processing staff," said Reed. One of those positions includes a judicial commissioner who oversees court cases.

Even with the shortage, officials say the court will conduct business as usual. "Defendants are going to continue to be prosecuted as complaints are filed by the district attorney and trials will be had," said Reed.

Given all the cuts, officials say construction of the new courthouse in Porterville will go on as planned and open fall of 2013.

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