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COLUMN

Happytown

The week that the county and the city made (fake) nice, rail made more racket and justice took a markdown.

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Train-kill:Another week, more rail trouble


After concluding the march, a couple of protestors started a chant summarizing the zeitgeist of February 2011: "Recall Rick Scott!"

Realizing that a recall isn't legally possible yet, one protester made a slight modification to the chant: "Abort Rick Scott!"

Perhaps it was the lazy residue of lunch dates in the 80-degree haze, but the Orange County commissioners hardly made an effort to fight off slumber when they convened on Feb. 22 for their weekly afternoon meeting. Not even a presentation by Ninth Circuit Court Chief Judge Belvin Perry Jr. about gritty matters like drugs, jails and crime was enough to keep the commissioners from hiding their un-enthusiasm at having to sit in a windowless chamber for hours while a gorgeous day conducted itself without them.

While Commissioner Lui Damiani kept his head afloat with his right hand and Commissioner Fred Brummer tested the recline of his chair, Judge Perry narrated a PowerPoint presentation detailing the state court's accomplishments, including the diversion of potential prisoners into a variety of court-sponsored programs that save the county an estimated $35,872,404 per year. The news was met by the exasperated blowing of air by Vice Mayor Scott Boyd.

Then Perry got to something more interesting, at least to the commissioners: the trickle-down effect of Rick Scott's proposed budget. Perry said that 32 judicial assistants, 10 court administrators and four staff attorneys would have to be cut to meet the demands of fiscal belt-tightening, to which Boyd perked up and mustered the strength to ask Perry what the cuts would mean for day-to-day operations at the court.

"Criminal judges will be forced to do the lion's share of their own legal research," Perry said, meaning that judges would spend less time in court moving cases along. Perry also said that the complex business litigation division would be "disbanded" and civil trials would "grow to a screeching halt" and would be prioritized based on how near a plaintiff is to death. "We will function, but we will be like molasses up north in the winter flowing down a tree," Perry said.

After an awkward pause, Boyd replied: "Thank you, Judge. That's what I wanted to hear." The audience laughed weakly, and Boyd was lulled back to the cradle of his palm and to daydreams of playing outside.

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