Archive for the 'Court Funding' Category
Access to justice for Oregonians has improved during the current two-year budget thanks to improved court funding.
Chief Justice Thomas Balmer told The Statesman Journal that Oregon’s courts are better able to keep pace with the hundreds of thousands of cases filed every year — although they haven’t recovered fully from the economic downturn.
Balmer said this is the hardest he’s ever worked to advocate for adequate court funding.
“This did not come about magically. I was an advocate for 24 years before I even became a judge, and I have never worked harder as an advocate than I did as an advocate for adequate court funding. Fortunately, I had a lot of help,” he told a joint luncheon of the Salem City Club and Marion County Bar Association.No comments
U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. wrote recently, in a year-round report on the state of the federal judiciary, about threats to public safety and to users of the courts if adequate federal funding is not restored (see Gavel Grab).
Now a Washington Post opinion writer, Dana Milbank, has suggested that Chief Justice Roberts ought to take a look in the mirror. Especially with the high court’s Citizens United ruling, Milbank asserts, conservative justices have removed campaign finance limits in ways that have increased the clout of deep-pocketed political spenders who back lawmakers who in turn want to shrink the government, and the reach of the courts.
“Roberts may see his fellow jurists as victims of a Dickensian system,” Milbank writes. “But they are the authors of this Christmas carol.”
Citizens United was decided almost four years ago, on Jan. 21, 2010. The impact of Citizens United on judicial elections was addressed recently in “New Politics of Judicial Elections 2011-12,” co-authored by Justice at Stake.No comments
Chief Justice Lawton Nuss of the Kansas Supreme Court will address an $8.25 million funding shortfall and other issues facing the state courts in the State of the Kansas Judiciary address on Jan. 22.
While the speech has been an annual event for decades, this year is believed to mark the first time that a chief justice will deliver it from the courtroom of the state’s highest court. The address will be webcast live, according to the Lawrence Journal-World, at the website of the Kansas Judicial Branch.
Justice Nuss will ask legislators to cover the judicial system shortfall. A committee was named to study the budget, and its report ”makes it abundantly clear that if the Legislature does not appropriate more money, tough decisions — including closing Kansas courts — will need to be made,” Justice Nuss said. Relationships between Republican legislators and the courts have recently been strained.No comments
In a year-end report on the state of the federal judiciary, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. warned that across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration were poised to “pose a genuine threat to public safety,” and he said the ability of the federal courts to deliver prompt justice and to protect the public was imperiled.
According to a New York Times article, Chief Justice Roberts wrote about both immediate and future consequences of budget cuts.
“There are fewer probation and pretrial services officers to protect the public from defendants awaiting trial and from offenders following their incarceration and release into the community,” he wrote. He said there is a greater risk for judges, court employees and the public due to reductions in financing for courthouse security. Read moreNo comments
Drastic funding cuts of 48 percent in the past five years have left Kentucky’s court system in crisis mode, former American Bar Association President William Robinson III recently told the Northern Kentucky Chamber.
Brent Cooper reported Robinson’s concerns in an op-ed at nky.Cincinnati.com. Cooper, a businessman, said layoffs and resulting delays in court services widely affect the public:
“Whether you have a dispute over a $500 fender bender in district court, have an employee dispute in circuit court, or have someone you love in family court, the Kentucky court system is a major part of our daily lives.”
While a Senate rules change paved the way for confirmation of two judges to vacancies on an influential appeals court, a large number of other vacancies exists and will not be affected by the change, a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial emphasizes.
The editorial says there are two vacancies on the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and 10 on the district courts in Pennsylvania, and nominees have been named for only two of the 10 district court judgeships. In Texas there are nine judicial vacancies, and the Republican U.S. senators from that state appear to be stalling for time, hoping the GOP will win back the Senate before nominations for the vacancies are made, a legal expert suggested.
The rules change eliminated filibusters of most judicial nominees. Once it was implemented, two nominees were confirmed last week for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and a third, Judge Robert Wilkins, is awaiting confirmation. For judicial vacancies where no nomination has been made, the rules change has little impact. There are 94 judicial vacancies, and 42 have no nominees. Read moreNo comments
The House of Representatives was expected to vote Thursday on a bipartisan budget accord crafted to avert another government shutdown. It was too early, however, to determine whether the package would ease large, across-the-board budget cuts automatically imposed on the judiciary earlier this year.
The Blog of Legal Times said the two-year budget agreement contains merely the overall total for non-discretionary defense spending, and House and Senate appropriators will decide later how to apply their priorities to different federal expenditures within that total.
Earlier this year the congressional appropriations committees signaled their support for funding that would at least roughly restore the judiciary to budget levels in place before the across-the-board “sequestration” cuts took effect March 1. Sequestration resulted in $350 million in cuts for the federal judiciary. A stopgap measure approved by Congress in October restored $51 million for the federal judiciary and defender services.
An editorial in the Asheville Citizen Times urges the state to restore funding for North Carolina’s courts. The battle for more funding will be an uphill battle, the editorial notes, observing that “Funding of courts is a hugely important issue, but not one that fits on a bumper sticker or excites crowds on the campaign trail.” Under the current system, counties are obligated to provide for the physical facilities of the courts, and the state is supposed to pay for personnel. However, the 2011-2012 General Assembly eliminated funding for 200 full time positions and 61 magistrates.
The editorial warns that without help from the state, local courts may be forced to seek other methods of raising money that potentially hurt the justice system. These could include raising fees, which would deny access to the courts for those who have little money, or seeking funds from other donors, which creates the potential for corruption in the court room.
An American Bar Association official has told Congress that a shortage of federal judges has adverse everyday consequences for people and businesses that use our courts, and that the shortage is exacerbated by across-the-board budget cuts called sequestration.
Thomas Susman, director of the ABA’s Governmental Affairs Office, voiced the concerns in a letter last week. The letter was the topic of a Legal Newsline article headlined, “ABA: Too few judges, lack of funding hurting federal courts.” Susman wrote:
“When federal courts do not have sufficient judges to keep up with the workload, civil trial dockets take a back seat to criminal dockets due to the Speedy Trial Act. As a result, persistent judge shortages increase the length of time that civil litigants and businesses wait for their day in court, create pressures that ‘robotize’ justice, and increase case backlogs that will perpetuate delays for years to come. Read more
The myriad ways in which the federal government’s partial shutdown impacted federal court operations are chronicled in a recent edition of Third Branch News, a newsletter by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts:
- “Some of our calendars are 200 pages thick. Getting cases back on the calendar will almost be unmanageable,” said Chief Judge Cecelia Morris of the Southern District of New York Bankruptcy Court. “It’s like the proverbial car accident. The first one was just a fender bender, but now cars are backed up 10 miles down the road.”
- “[T]he general impression was that federal courts were on their last breath,” West Allen, chair of the Government Relations Committee of the Federal Bar Association. “The judges and court staff did an exceptional job of getting through this, but if it had gone even another week or two, there would have been real problems.”
- Chief Judge Ruben Castillo of the Northern District of Illinois issued an order on Oct. 17 postponing for 14 days all litigation involving the United States as a party. He said more than 1,000 cases were halted temporarily. Read more