Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Court Funding' Category

Judge: Funding Increase for New Mexico Courts is Needed

6a00d83451b26169e201901f0a2adc970bNew Mexico’s court system urgently needs five new judges to deal with spiraling caseloads, and it is important for the legislature to ignore politics and deal with facts in considering a funding boost, Judge Alan M. Malott (photo) of the 2nd Judicial District writes in an Albuquerque Journal op-ed.

Judge Malott adds his voice to a rising debate over the appropriate funding level for New Mexico’s courts in fiscal 2015. You can learn background and details from Gavel Grab. According to Judge Malott, a decade-old study recommended adding the five judges statewide, and caseloads have only increased much more since then.

“The executive branch has proposed no budget increase for the judiciary,” Judge Malott adds, and that effectively would amount to a budget cut. He concludes, “As a simple matter of fact, denying reasonable funding for judicial operations and reasonable compensation for our judges is just politics.”

No comments

Editorial Supports Increased Funding for N.M. Courts

New Mexico courts — and the citizens they serve — deserve a “bigger slice” of the “state government funding pie” when legislators finalize the next budget, an Albuquerque Journal editorial said.

Gavel Grab mentioned earlier that a Legislative Finance Committee proposal would increase funding for the state courts by $6.7 million, but Gov. Susan Martinez is advocating merely a $1.3 million increase. The editorial called the LFC proposal reasonable and elaborated this way:

“And it’s important to note this isn’t really about funding the courts. It’s about funding the services the courts provide to the thousands of New Mexicans who find themselves in the judicial system every year – and the public that counts on the system to determine guilt, innocence and punishment designed to protect the rest of society.”

No comments

Legislature, Governor Square Off Over N.M. Court Funding

New Mexico’s bipartisan Legislative Finance Committee is urging a $6.7 million increase for funding state courts — a hike of 4.5 percent — but Gov. Susana Martinez says that’s way too high and the increase should be $1.3 million, or less than 1 percent.

Referring to the courts, state Sen. John Arthur Smith, a Democrat, told the Albuquerque Journal, “This is one of the few branches of government that stepped to the plate and said we’ll find ways to try and make this system work during the most difficult times (of the recession). And we have some catching up to do.”

A spokesman for the governor’s office, on the other hand, said other public agencies got lesser increases in recent years than did the courts, and the courts should now take a back seat. Read more

No comments

Kansas Bill With Timelines for Judicial Action Sparks Controversy

KS capitolLegislation sponsored by the Kansas Senate Judiciary Committee would set time limits for judges to render their decisions. An editorial in the Hays (Ks.) Daily News criticized the bill as apparently blurring the separation of powers among government’s branches and said, “Choosing to ignore the intentional walls for one purpose likely will open a floodgate of unintended consequences.”

The editorial called the measure “a bad idea” and made a pitch for adequate funding of state courts. “The judicial branch already has standards in place to ensure speedy trials and timely decisions,” the editorial said. “Rather than potentially unconstitutional meddling, legislators instead should properly fund the courts to ensure they remain open. That likely would have greater effect.”

Perhaps Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff King, who is pushing the bill, was “emboldened” by the legislature’s action last year to dismantle merit selection in the naming of Court of Appeals judges, the editorial noted.

The Kansas legislation is similar to legislation filed in the New York  Assembly, according to Gavel to Gavel, a publication of the National Center for State Courts. The Center is a JAS partner organization.

No comments

Tap CA Budget Surplus for Court Funding, Editorial Urges

With California legislators eyeing different uses for a state budget surplus, a Sacramento Bee editorial has endorsed spending some of it to restore adequate funding for state courts.

After hearing from California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye(photo)  about the courts’ funding needs following a period of recession and major budget cuts, the editorial opposed an increase in court fees and fines:

“Cantil-Sakauye is right to say that we don’t want ‘pay to play’ – one justice system for the well-to-do and another for everyone else. All Californians should get their day in court in a timely fashion.”

The editorial noted that during California’s budget crunch, the state has closed more than 200 courtrooms, reduced hours in other courts and laid off, or not filled the positions of, hundreds of employees. It concluded, “To do justice, however, the overall pie needs to grow. While the state may not be able to afford the courts’ entire three-year blueprint, which calls for more than $612 million in 2014-15, it can’t afford to do nothing.”

No comments

Kansas Chief Justice: Without Budget Increase, Shutdowns Ahead

Chief Justice Nuss

Chief Justice Nuss

Unless the Kansas legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback appropriate more money for the state courts, there will be court shutdowns, Kansas Chief Justice Lawton Nuss said in his annual State of the Judiciary address.

The judicial branch budget faces a shortfall of $8.25 million in the next fiscal year, he said, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal. “If some additional money is not provided, then Kansas court employees will be sent home without pay and Kansas courts statewide will be closed,” he said. “The only question is for how long.”

Kansans are entitled by the constitution to “remedy by due course of law and justice without delay,” but if the courts don’t get greater funding, they won’t be able to fulfill that requirement, he said. “None of us can make good on our solemn oath of office or guarantee these rights if Kansas courts close.” He also voiced thanks to legislators for a pay raise for some employees of the judicial system, while saying it did not resolve the shortfall for the next fiscal year. Read more

No comments

Letter: More Work Remains to Expand Access to Oregon Courts

In the wake of a report about improved funding for the Oregon court system, “There is much more work to do to ensure our courts receive the resources they need to provide the vital services Oregonians deserve,” says Nate Gulley.

The (Salem) Statesman Journal published Gulley’s views in a letter to the editor remarking on Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Balmer’s recent state of the courts address (see Gavel Grab for details). Gulley, who works on court issues on behalf of Common Cause Oregon, wrote:

“It is promising news that the state of our courts is improving (albeit slightly), but we still have a long way to go in terms of restoring badly needed resources and ensuring access to justice for all Oregonians.

“Funding for Oregon courts plummeted during the recession and has yet to recover. Under-resourced courts and lack of access to public defenders are particularly harmful to low-income folks and people of color who are less likely to be able to afford lawyers. Funding cuts have also meant the courts have no permanent funding for drug courts and other specialty courts that use treatment and frequent court appearances to break cycles of addiction, reduce recidivism and restore communities, all of which save Oregon money over time.”

Common Cause is a JAS partner organization.

No comments

Relief for Federal Courts in U.S. Spending Bill? Stay Tuned

Is there good news on the horizon when it comes to federal appropriations for U.S. courts? Perhaps, a Blog of Legal Times article indicates.

A large appropriations bill proposed by congressional negotiators “would provide the federal courts an increase of $316 million in discretionary spending—or 5 percent above current funding—for the 2014 fiscal year,” the blog reports. The U.S. judiciary is pleased with the level of funding, basically the level sought by the courts in December, said a spokeswoman for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

“This is probably the minimum amount of funding the courts could really survive on this year, but it should at least stop the bleeding” from previous cuts, said a spokesman for Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del. and chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Bankruptcy and the Courts.

Before it becomes law, the overall legislation must be passed by the House and Senate and signed by President Obama.

No comments

Oregon Court Funding Stronger, Still Not Fully Recovered

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.

Read more

No comments

Commentator Challenges Roberts on Court Funding Plaint

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

« Previous PageNext Page »