Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Court Funding' Category

KS Justices ‘Troubled’ After Brownback Signs Court Overhaul Plan

brownbackKansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed on Friday legislation opposed by members of the state Supreme Court that provides increased court funding while making those funds contingent upon overhauling administration of the judicial system.

“The Supreme Court of Kansas has strongly opposed this bill since its creation,” the court’s members said in a statement, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal. “We are troubled now that it has been signed by the governor. It weakens the centralized authority of the Kansas unified court system in exchange for money to pay our employees and keep courts open. And the money it provides still may fall short of even doing that.”

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Editorial: Is Overhaul Plan ‘Political Payback’ for Kansas Court?

stock-footage-kansas-flag-loopLegislation passed by the Kansas legislature to increase state court funding — contingent upon overhauling administration of the judicial system — is criticized by a Wichita Eagle editorial.

The legislation, which state Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss said threatens an independent judiciary (see Gavel Grab), would allow local courts to opt out of state Supreme Court control over budget preparation and submission; and take away the Supreme Court’s authority to pick chief district court judges.

The editorial says the overhaul warrants greater study and appears to be a step backward. Then it slams politicians pushing for the overhaul and urges a veto by Gov. Sam Brownback of the legislation:

“It also strikes many as political payback related to the high court’s school-funding or other decisions. In any case, it’s wrong for the Legislature to use its appropriations power to force unwanted and unwarranted systemic change on the judiciary. Though it’s highly doubtful that the governor will veto the bill, he should.” Read more

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California Courts Facing Civil Rights Crisis?

California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye gives her State of the Judiciary

California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye gives her State of the Judiciary

California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye says the state faces a civil rights crisis because of nearly a half billion dollars in court funding budget cuts since 2008.

“It’s tragic that 50 years after the enactment of the Civil Rights Act, California faces a different type of civil rights crisis,” Cantil-Saauye told the Los Angeles Times. “It is not about the law. It is about access to it.”

According to the Sacramento Bee, delays are faced in numerous cases including urgent family matters, business contracts, wrongful termination and discrimination cases. She assured the legislature that the courts want to be a partner in fair and collaborative solutions.

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Top Kansas Judge Criticizes Overhaul Plan in Funding Bill

Chief Justice Nuss

Chief Justice Nuss

The Kansas Senate approved earlier this month a bill that would boost state court funding significantly, contingent upon overhauling administration of the judicial system. Now state Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss is warning that the package threatens an independent judiciary.

In a Kansas City Star op-ed, the Chief Justice lays out opposition to provisions that would allow local courts to opt out of state Supreme Court control over budget preparation and submission; and take away the Supreme Court’s authority to pick chief district court judges.

All 31 chief judges oppose the decentralizing budget plan, and many support the way chief judges currently are selected, Justice Nuss writes. Nonetheless, the executive committee of the Kansas District Judges Association was persuaded to accept the plan in order to avoid court closures that would result without adequate funding, he says. He explains that the Supreme Court opposes the all-or-nothing package, and that some have questioned the package’s constitutionality. Read more

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Report Shows Negative Impact of Sequestration on Federal Courts

The effects of the across the board cuts known as sequestration had a measurable negative impact on federal courts, according to Courthouse News Service.

The $350 million cuts the federal courts faces led to a 15 percent reduction in staff during 2 1/2 years at clerks offices, probation and pretrial services offices, and in courts of appeal, according to a March report to the Judicial Conference of the United States from Judge Julia Gibbons, chairwoman of the conference’s Budget Committee.

One of the hardest hit areas was civil cases, where the time for cases to be heard increased 16 percent to 8 1/2months, directly impacting individuals, small businesses and corporations seeking to resolve disputes in the federal courts.

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Alabama Chief Justice Calls for Court Funding Increase

The chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court says inadequate court funding is denying justice to thousands of victims, children, families and businesses each year.

Roy Moore wrote an opinion piece for, saying he was shocked by the current level of funding and the reductions the court budget has faced in the past 10 years. He said the judicial branch has suffered unfairly compared to other branches of state government.

“For the past two years many state employees have received salary increases and in 2014 all Executive Branch employees have been cleared to receive merit raises, while employees in the court system have not had a single merit raise or cost of living adjustment since 2008.  While morale is low, we are blessed to have loyal and dedicated personnel who are willing to sacrifice because they truly care about the people of Alabama they serve.  Their faithful service is something for which we can all be proud.”

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JAS Applauds Creation of New Judgeships in New Mexico

Justice at Stake applauded on Wednesday New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez’s signing legislation that creates five new judgeships.

“These new judgeships in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Hobbs, Bernalillo, and Las Cruces are a step toward restoring the vitality of New Mexico’s court system, which has suffered from limited resources in recent years,” JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg said in a statement. “With this action, the Governor demonstrates her understanding that when justice is delayed by backlogs or not enough sitting judges, it hurts people and businesses seeking resolution of a dispute, and forces individuals to put their lives on hold.”

Martinez earlier signed a $6.2 billion state budget, according to the Albuquerque Journal, while deleting more than $27 million sought Read more

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Hiring to Begin to Fill U.S. Defender Jobs Lost to Cuts

With a new federal fiscal 2014 budget providing increased funding, hiring can begin to fill about 350 of 400 positions in federal defender offices where employees were lost due to across-the-board budget cuts, court officials said this week.

Chief Judge William Traxler Jr., chairman of the  executive committee for the Judicial Conference of the United States, made the announcement on Tuesday, according to the Blog of Legal Times.

Congress approved in January a fiscal 2014 appropriations bill that increased discretionary spending for the courts by $316 million, and restored a majority of the $350 million that was cut under the across-the-board reductions called “sequestration.” This appropriation gives the judiciary “a little bit of breathing room,” Judge Traxler said, but uncertainty remains about the next fiscal year’s budget. 

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All-or-Nothing Approach in New Kansas Court Funding Bill

In Kansas, where tensions between state legislators and the state Supreme Court have been noted (see Gavel Grab), the state Senate was to consider on Thursday a bill to increase funding for Kansas courts, as long as the state Supreme Court doesn’t strike down any portion of the bill if it became law.

Parts of the legislation would allow local courts to opt out of state Supreme Court control over budget preparation and submission; and take away the Supreme Court’s authority to pick chief district court and Court of Appeals judges.

The legislation was reported by Gavel to Gavel, a publication of the National Center for State Courts. The National Center is a Justice at Stake partner organization.

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Wisconsin Budget Cuts Affect Innovation in Court Programs

military-budget-cuts_bonabeau_1.2012Innovation for state courts in Wisconsin is stymied by a cut of $17.6 million in the biennial budget for the judiciary, an Appleton Post-Crescent article says.

“The court system is facing unprecedented cuts, and the level of court system budget reductions will continue to have consequences,” Director of State Courts A. John Voelker said. “Left unaddressed, the funding issues will begin to affect the court system’s ability to effectively serve the people of Wisconsin.”

Fewer national experts will be able to come to Wisconsin and address state jurists as one result of the cuts. As an example of the kind of innovation fostered through Office of Judicial Education programming, the article mentioned an initiative in Outagamie County to have commissioners set bond for criminal defendants based on evidence-based risk analysis rather than on a judge’s experience and instincts.

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