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With forced furloughs looming at San Francisco Superior Court, judges may be swearing in witnesses themselves starting next month. Beginning Sept. 10, the court expects to have 25 percent fewer clerical staff every Friday, the court announced Monday. A variety of divisions will feel the ripple effects. There will probably be only one clerk available for every two criminal courtrooms on Fridays after 2 p.m., said Judge Mary Morgan, who supervises the criminal division. “Things may move more slowly,” but criminal courtrooms won’t go dark, Morgan emphasized. “If a judge has a trial, the trial will proceed,” she said. If necessary, a judge can swear in witnesses, attorneys can physically mark evidence, and a clerk can update the minutes later based on the transcript, she added. In the civil division, many courtrooms are expected to go dark on Fridays at 2 p.m., according to the court. (Civil courtrooms have been going dark on Wednesday afternoons for months.) The court will also eliminate one traffic calendar and one small claims calendar on Friday afternoons, said court Chief Executive Officer Gordon Park-Li. Outside of courtrooms, the furloughs will also affect filing offices and public access to court records. The public viewing counter at the civil courthouse will close at 2:30 p.m. on Fridays. And the Unified Family Court’s filing office will close every weekday at 3 p.m., the court said. Parties will still be able to get papers for the family court stamped with the same date if they drop them off in a box by 4 p.m., Park-Li said. Over the last two years, the court has taken a variety of steps to save money, including a hiring freeze and voluntary furloughs, plus trimmed hours in the civil division for courtrooms, filing windows and the public viewing counter. So far, the courts have avoided layoffs, said Human Resources Director Cheryl Martin. The mandatory furloughs are coming about now because, for the first time in several years, the San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System is requiring the court to make employer contributions, Martin said. Court officials say they don’t have the money. But under a recent contract with one union, the court can require up to 320 clerical staff to take 10 unpaid days off each this fiscal year to cover the cost, Martin said.

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