Gavel Grab

Archive for the ‘Court Funding’ Category

Federal Judge Says Sequestration Undermines the Mission of the Courts

On Wednesday, federal judge and chair of the Judicial Conference Budget Committee Julia S. Gibbons (photo), testified before a House Appropriations Subcommittee on the dire impact of sequestration on federal courts.

According to the United States Courts webpage, Gibbons warned that under budget cuts, “the Judiciary cannot continue to operate at such drastically reduced funding levels without seriously compromising the Constitutional mission of the federal courts.”

Gibbons noted areas where a lack of monetary resources would prevent the courts from functioning effectively, such as providing legal counsel for individuals who can’t afford an attorney, and paying for security personnel to “ensure the safety and security of court staff, litigants, and the public in federal court facilities.” Read more

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Ala., Mass. Judges Urge Legislators to Raise Court Funding

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (photo) has been on and off the court’s bench over the past decade, but he says the court system now has $38 million less than it did when he was first elected in 2001, reports the Associated Press.

At a Montgomery Rotary Club meeting this week, Moore stated that 498 fewer people are employed by the courts than in 2001, and 300 more may be laid off depending on budget proposals from the state Legislature.

Moore has not proposed a solution to the funding problem, but he has asked legislators to keep drug courts open, the article says.

In Massachusetts, court leaders are pushing for pay raises for 379 judges, and an increase for the Trial Court system budget, says an article in The Republican. Read more

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JAS Urges Bipartisan Fix to Ease Impact of Court Funding Cuts

Justice at Stake, citing a threat to “core constitutional values,” has asked congressional leaders for a plan to ease the impact on federal courts from recent budget cuts.

“[T]hese cuts threaten to erode several core constitutional values, including the right to a jury trial and due process,” JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg wrote in a letter to House and Senate leadership.

The across-the-board budget cuts that were triggered March 1 are called sequestration. “I write to urge decisive action to identify a bipartisan solution to allay the damage that sequestration is beginning to cause,” Brandenburg’s letter said.

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OR, CA, IL Courts Hurting from Scarcity of Funding

While defenders of federal courts have spoken frequently in the past few weeks about a need for greater funding, court systems at the state level are also experiencing dire consequences from smaller budgets.

In Oregon, layoffs have led to overflowing caseloads and shuttered courthouses, an Oregonian editorial says. According to the state Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Balmer, the courts need $410 million from 2013-2015 in order to run efficiently everyday at full capacity.

While the state courts deserve to be funded equally as a third branch of government, the editorial argues, legislators have yet to find an adequate source of money. The courts are having to spend increasingly more on its pension system, making it difficult to find a long term solution to the system’s search for funds, it says. Read more

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U.S. Budget Cuts to Disrupt Some Criminal Cases, Defenders

The impact of across-the-board federal budget cuts on people served by the federal courts is getting increased news media attention in various states.

Whereas state and county courts have sometimes had to close their doors in the past due to budget cuts, now it’s the federal courts’ turn to feel “the pinch,” a Lawrence (Kansas) Journal World article said.

The prosecution of some criminal cases will not go forward, and Kansans who are accused of federal crimes will have longer waits to meet with a court-appointed attorney. Overall there will be a funding cut of $750,000, or 14 percent, for three federal courthouses around the state, the article said. The cuts are a result of federal reductions called “sequestration” (see Gavel Grab).

In Delaware, the cuts will cause cancellation of most criminal proceedings in the U.S. District Court on Fridays, the Associated Press reported.


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Justices Kennedy, Breyer Testify on Need for Court Funding

At a U.S. House appropriations subcommittee meeting Thursday, Supreme Court Justices Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer raised concerns about the potentially devastating impact of across-the-board budget cuts on federal courts.

The two justices declared that cuts to funding would slow down the “resolution of civil and criminal cases,” according to Thomson Reuters News & Insight.

“For a few months we can get by with furloughs or shorter hours,” Kennedy said, but “in the long term it will be inconsistent.” The Blog of Legal Times says he told legislators that judges cannot “control” their workload of cases in an effort to save money. Read more

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U.S. Judge: Cuts ‘Strike at the Heart’ of Justice System

The federal courts cannot keep working at funding levels reduced by recent automatic cuts “without seriously compromising the Constitutional mission of the federal courts,” U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Julia Gibbons (photo) told the Judicial Conference.

“Reductions of this magnitude strike at the heart of our entire system of justice and spread throughout the country,” Judge Gibbons said, according to a Blog of Legal Times post. “The longer the sequestration stays in place, the more severe will be its impact on the courts and those who use them.” The automatic cuts that were triggered March 1 are called “sequestration.”

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Andrew Cohen: Sequestration a Threat to Our Legal System

Chief judges from all the federal circuit courts will gather at the semi-annual meeting of the Judicial Conference of the U.S. this week, and court budget cuts caused by sequestration will be at the top of their list for discussion.

The public’s legal rights will undoubtedly be denied or delayed by these massive across-the-board budget cuts, says Andrew Cohen in an article for The Atlantic. The judiciary was  designed to be an equal branch of government, and its leaders should not have to “grovel for funding” from the other two branches, Cohen says.

Dennis Courtland Hayes, president of the American Judicature Society, warned in February that up to 2,000 federal court employees could be furloughed or laid off with the new budget cuts in place, reducing resources for individuals seeking legal help. Read more

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Top CA Judge: Funding Cuts Leading to a ‘Civil Rights Crisis’?

California’s chief justice, lamenting closures of numerous state courts due to budget cuts, drew on a history lesson to warn that California “may now be facing a civil rights crisis.”

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye cited the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Gideon v. Wainwright, which said states must provide counsel for criminal defendants who can’t afford a lawyer. The ruling also offered a reminder that courts often provide a last resort for people they serve, she said, according to a Los Angeles Times article:

“Justice requires a court. But what we once counted on — that courts would be open, available and ready to dispense prompt justice — no longer exists in California.” 

Budget cuts have led to reduced general funding of California’s courts by 65 percent in five years. In addition to closures, hours have been trimmed, court fees have soared, and some courts have seen “unconscionable delays” in setting dates for civil case proceedings, she said.

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Justice Kennedy Sees Shift of Power to Supreme Court

In a public appearance in California, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said it is important for members of Congress to do more to compromise, so that the government’s checks and balances may be preserved.

He suggested that there is a power shift to the high court, the Associated Press reported. When reporters asked if he saw the court making decisions on too many issues that could be decided by Congress, he replied:

“I think it’s a serious problem. A democracy should not be dependent for its major decisions on what nine unelected people from a narrow legal background have to say.”

“And I think it’s of tremendous importance for our political system to show the rest of the world – and we have to show ourselves first – that democracy works because we can reach agreement on a principle basis.”

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