Budgetary woes are forcing Alameda County Superior Court officials to reduce court clerks' hours beginning in January.
Currently, the clerks' offices at the county's courthouses are open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, but beginning on Jan. 3 the hours will be cut to 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, court officials said.
Traffic clerk offices, which had been open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays, will be reduced to 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., according to court officials.
In addition, telephone hours in all clerks' offices except for traffic will be reduced to 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Phone hours for traffic clerk offices will still be from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Drop boxes will be available at each clerks' office for filings made between 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. but filings deposited after 4 p.m. will be deemed to have been deposited on the next court day.
The announcement about the reduction in court clerks' hours comes on the heels of the court's announcement last month that it will close all courthouses in Alameda County except the Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland from Dec. 23 to Jan. 2 in another cost-cutting move.
Limited staff will be on hand at the Wiley Manuel Courthouse, which is located at 661 Washington St. in Oakland, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 23 and from Dec. 27 to Dec. 30 to accept case filings.
Alameda County court officials said they started the fiscal year with a budget deficit of more than $5 million and have engaged in ongoing efforts to balance their budget by reducing costs.
They said those steps include eliminating a number of vacant staff positions, instituting a "hard freeze" of no less than 12 months of filling other positions and placing a "soft freeze" on all other positions, meaning that any vacant position will be kept vacant for no less than 90 days after it opens up.
Court officials said California's trial courts were subject to severe budget restrictions that during the economic downturn.
They said that although the state's economy has improved in recent years, only a small percentage of that funding has been restored.
Certain courts, including the Alameda County Superior Court, have been deemed to be "donor" courts, which means that large portions of the court's ongoing funding and any new monies restored to the courts through the budget process are diverted to courts in other counties that have been deemed by state court officials to be more under-resourced.