Saturday, May 22, 2010

No Control

The San Francisco Chronicle discovers a problem it hasn't noticed before. Apparently, the courts are filled with activist judges who think nothing of ordering elected officials to spend money a particular way without regard for whether or not the money is actually there. These judges have taken upon themselves a veto power they exercise in response to lawsuits brought by left-wing public interest lawyers, who form a sort of rear-guard for liberal spending initiatives that wouldn't otherwise survive the political process. No! Way!: Courts Quash Cuts, Add To State's Budget Woes

Courts in recent years have crushed attempts by California to cut spending by billions of dollars and have forced the state to spend hundreds of millions more than planned.

Designated cuts to health and human services that were rejected by federal courts alone have resulted in $4.5 billion in lost savings over the past three years, according to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration.

Prison health care costs have doubled to more than $1.9 billion since 2006, when a federal judge ordered a federal receiver to take control of prison health services.

"The judicial branch is now a full player in the budget because the decisions they are making have an impact on what the governor and Legislature can or cannot do," said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the Department of Finance. "The judiciary does not have to deal with the fiscal consequence of the rulings - they say you can't do a spending reduction, but we have to come up with another $100 million in cuts somewhere else."

Yeah, it's a real problem, these activist judges. That's why conservatives have been complaining about the courts' ever-increasing encroachments into the decision making by the legislative and executive branches at all levels of government, federal and state. It completely undercuts representative government. What's the point of electing representatives if their work will be vitiated by an unelected judge? After all, he doesn't have to worry about balancing a budget, or reining in a raging fiscal crisis. He just needs to worry about enforcing "rights." There's a right to a particular budget appropriation? I missed that day in law school.

We already have one judge ordering the state to spend more money that it doesn't have on prisons because CA's are supposedly over-crowded to an unconstitutional degree. We've had another judge re-directing water flows away from the Central Valley. We have disgruntled public employee unions suing to overturn the furloughs of state employees (which amount to a couple days a month). If they are successful, the state will presumably have to pay back wages - and penalties, of course - again with money it doesn't have. And just this week, San Francisco Unified School District sued the state to obtain increased funding, again with money that isn't there. Add CalTrans and UC to the list and pretty soon the legislature won't have to meet anymore. We'll just wait for a judge to make an award to some no-name plaintiff fronting for a public interest law firm. Instead of budget appropriations, we'll fund state operations through liens and abstracts of judgment.

Conservatives have been complaining about an out-of-control judiciary for years. For our trouble, we've been called racists and reactionaries. Apparently, a problem is a problem only when liberals notice.

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