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Squeezed by state budgets cutbacks, the Los Angeles County court system is launching massive job layoffs, pay cuts and transfers, court officials said Thursday.

Cutbacks that will be implemented Friday will affect 431 court employees and 56 courtrooms throughout the nation's largest superior court system.

Presiding Judge Lee Smalley Edmon bemoaned the loss of longtime employees as well as the impact on public services.

"We are laying off people who are committed to serving the public," she said. "It is a terrible loss both to these dedicated employees and to the public."

The union representing state and municipal employees called Friday's action a "freeze on justice in Los Angeles" and warned that the county would experience "an end to timely justice" with cases being delayed for years, particularly in civil courts.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — AFSCME — planned to have representatives on hand to assist employees who will not know they are losing their jobs until they are informed individually Friday.

A spokeswoman for the California Judicial Council said other courts in the state will also be impacted by the budget cuts but will handle them individually. Los Angeles' court system, as the largest, will be the most heavily affected.

Edmon said the drastic actions are the result of a state mandate to reduce annual spending by $30 million. She noted that earlier reductions already saved $70 million, but more cuts in state support for trial courts are scheduled for the next fiscal year.

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