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AS NEW YEAR DAWNS, COURT STILL BROKE FROM OLD ONE Christine Hansen didn’t have much time during the holidays for partying. As the finance director for the Administrative Office of the Courts, Hansen was too busy crunching numbers in her office. She wasn’t working on some grand plan to save the courts’ budget. She’s just trying to figure out just how bad it’s going to be now that the calendar has flipped to 2004. Right before the New Year, Hansen estimated the courts would face a budget hole of about $40 million. That might seem small compared to the courts’ total $2.2 billion budget. But considering that much of the money goes toward salaries, a deficit late into the fiscal year could be bad news for court workers, Hansen said. Layoffs or court closures could be in the stars, especially if legislators and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger don’t come through with some backfill of state money, Hansen said. “We’re not sure what’s going to happen yet,” she said. Several factors caused the deficit. A loan from the court facilities fund came up $10 million short, and another $4.3 million has to cover a shortfall in the judges’ retirement system. But by far the biggest contributor is a lack of revenue from court fees. Back in August, a plan by legislators to raise money for the courts depended on about $150 million from new fees. While some of those are coming in a little higher than expected, overall there’s an estimated $29 million shortfall. Schwarzenegger isn’t talking about his budget proposal, which he’s scheduled to release around Friday. Hansen said backfill would be a nice surprise but she isn’t holding her breath. She predicts the problem won’t get addressed until after the governor’s proposal. “We can’t absorb it internally,” she said. “If [Sacramento] can’t take care of this, it means we’re going to have to pass it on to the trial courts.” — Jeff Chorney LAW OF THE LAND San Francisco lawyers Andrew Zacks and Paul Utrecht fired a warning shot last month in an effort to lift restrictions on S.F. landlords. In a complaint filed Dec. 18 in San Francisco Superior Court, the two lawyers challenged the constitutionality of a 1998 ballot measure — and threatened a class action that would seek damages of $1.25 billion. The class will probably give up the suit if the city takes the law off the books, Zacks said last week. Proposition G limited landlords’ ability to evict a tenant in order to make room for the owner or a close family member to move into a residential unit. The suit filed last month contends those restrictions amount to a taking of private property without just compensation, and violate federal and state constitutions. Four individuals and a 2,000-member association are named plaintiffs in Small Property Owners of San Francisco v. City and County of San Francisco, 427470. The complaint also asserts that about 12,500 class members have suffered similar impacts. The class has not been certified. “If the city is served, we’ll defend it vigorously,” said Deputy City Attorney Andrew Schwartz, head of land use and environmental litigation. Zacks and Utrecht have been battling tenant groups in court for years. He notes that a group of property owners and associations won summary judgment last year in another suit challenging Prop G, Cwynar v. City and County of San Francisco, 302014. In that case, then-Superior Court Judge David Garcia, now retired, wrote, “Because Proposition G provides no compensation for affected landlords, it effectuates an unconstitutional per se taking of property as applied to each of the plaintiffs here.” Zacks expressed frustration that the city didn’t appeal Garcia’s order in Cwynar, and speculated that the city feared an adverse appellate decision. “It would be a published decision which all in the land could rely on.” But Schwartz said an appeal by the city just didn’t make sense given the facts of the case. — Pam Smith BELOW THE BELT Whenever Nicolas Carbajal dropped by the Orange County Mexican restaurant in which Norma Bueno was the cashier, he’d make a mess of things — and not with food. On at least two occasions, Carbajal was observed at a table with one hand in his pants masturbating. The irrefutable evidence would be on the floor after his departure. After his arrest Carbajal was found guilty of two counts of indecent exposure and one of lewd conduct. On appeal, though, he argued that he couldn’t be guilty of indecent exposure because none of the restaurant’s employees ever actually saw his genitals. On Dec. 30, however, Santa Ana’s Fourth District Court of Appeal held that visual observation isn’t an element of the crime. Writing for the court, Justice William Rylaarsdam said that while actual exposure in the presence of another person is required, “there is no concomitant requirement that such person actually have seen the defendant’s genitals. “Thus, we will uphold defendant’s conviction for indecent exposure in the absence of any direct visual observation of his genitals so long as there is sufficient circumstantial evidence to show that actual exposure occurred.” Justices William Bedsworth and Richard Fybel concurred. Unfortunately for those who might want to avoid this particular restaurant, the justices didn’t identify it or its location. The case is People v. Carbajal, 04 C.D.O.S. 37. — Mike McKee

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