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COURT FEES OK’D IN SENATE BUDGET DEAL SACRAMENTO — The state budget compromise announced by Senate leaders Thursday includes the $150 million in new court fees that judiciary leaders say are essential to the courts’ well-being. The new fees were announced in May and are the key provision of an agreement negotiated by Orange County Senators Joseph Dunn, a Democrat, and Republican Dick Ackerman. The senators were responding to what they saw as short shrift given to the courts budget by the governor and Legislature. But earlier this month, the fees were in jeopardy. Republican negotiators saw them as violating their no-new-taxes dictum and proposed financing the $150 million from the state’s general fund. Court leaders didn’t like that idea. Although the fee increases on everything from probate filings to appeals could make it hard for some people to get access to the courts, Dunn and Ackerman see them as a way to make the courts less beholden to the whims of state lawmakers. Lawmakers hope Thursday’s agreement — announced by Senate leaders John Burton, D-San Francisco, and Jim Brulte, R-Rancho Cucamonga — will break the budget stalemate, which has left California without a budget plan since July 1. Even though the compromise is good news for court leaders, the courts still are not out of danger. The Senate is scheduled to vote on the plan Sunday, but then the package still has to go to the Assembly. “I’m reasonably hopeful that [the deal] will be OK over there too,” Ackerman said. And even as the courts appear to have dodged one bullet, there’s another one coming. Without a state budget, the courts cannot begin assessing the new fees, so each day hundreds of thousands of dollars the courts were counting on go uncollected. — Jeff Chorney DAVIS NAMES FOUR TO L.A. SUPERIOR COURT SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gray Davis continued his recent rush of judicial appointments Thursday with four new judges in Los Angeles County. Earlier this week, Davis broke a dry spell that had lasted more than three months with appointments in Fresno and San Diego counties. In Los Angeles, he’s raising one commissioner and three attorneys to the superior court bench. The commissioner, Joseph Shiro Biderman, 47, is a former trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice and also worked as a public defender. He also worked for Honda North America and the former Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro. Also named were Holly Kendig, 55, a partner at O’Melveny & Myers, where she’s worked since 1975; James Otto, 54, a partner at Altman, Otto & Kong in Long Beach; and Brian Yep, 44, a partner at Walsh, Delaney & Yep in Lancaster. Yep has also served as judge pro tem and as a hearing officer with the Antelope Valley Air Pollution Control District. All the new judges will receive a salary of $139,476. — Jeff Chorney

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