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California's court system needs more money if it is going to recover from years of budget cuts that have forced courthouses to close and court employees to take unpaid days off, the state's chief justice said Monday.

"We have a lot of catching up to do and, we want to be a partner in fair and collaborative solutions, just like we were a partner in the last five years in reductions ...," Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye told a joint session of the Legislature.

It was her third annual "state of the judiciary" speech to lawmakers. She has been seeking to restore the courts' funding since she was sworn in more than three years ago by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican.

During the downturn, some trial courts cut their hours, closed courtrooms and furloughed or laid off employees. She said court closures mean more than two million Californians can no longer easily reach a local courthouse. Her office says 51 courthouses and 205 courtrooms have been closed, while 30 have reduced service hours.

"A one-way, three-hour trip to a courthouse can't be fair in anyone's book," she said. "We face astonishing and harmful delays in urgent family matters, in business contracts, in wrongful termination, discrimination cases, personal injury cases, across the board."

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