Recent cuts in the funding of California's courts have come crashing down hard on our community. We have limited recourses to protect our lives and property against the wrongful acts of others. The courts are our safety net.

The judicial budget for Kern County has been slashed by nearly $10 million, and two courthouses are closing. What does this mean to the public?

These drastic cuts will cause longer waits for trials, as well as increased costs and fees for litigants. Judges are now overworked because of heavier caseloads without adequate staff to support them. As a result of the state's fiscal austerity measures, parties to lawsuits will be left in limbo.

The judicial system is one of the co-equal branches of government, but the other two branches, the executive and the legislature, have the power to destroy or limit the judiciary by withholding funds. In the past five years, California has hacked $1 billion from its courts -- a reduction of nearly 65 percent.

Without access to the courts, we are deprived of a fair and just system for the orderly resolution of disputes. This translates into personal disasters for many. For example, profit-motivated medical care systems give substandard care. Manufacturers of defective products gain while the consumer loses. Fraudulent activities flourish without redress.

Judicial funding must be a high priority; otherwise, the future may be very bleak. Closing courts will impede the resolution of disputes, and will further exacerbate the harm to victims of wrongful conduct.

Kathleen Ellis Faulkner