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State Courts Discuss Judiciary Budget Constraints

Cindy Pham Posted in Rule One

Recently, during the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators, many state chief justices, court administrators, and legislators attended or participated in a panel discussion in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the National Center for State Courts. At this discussion, panelists addressed how courts should best handle the severe judiciary budget cuts impacting the nation’s courts, especially in light of the public’s increasing demand for court services.

One suggestion was to embrace technology to perform judicial duties cheaper and more efficiently, such as by going paperless. Another suggestion was to eliminate unnecessary jobs in the court system that serve as political favors. In addition, the panelists said courts will gain more control of court systems and budgeting concerns through open discussions and collaboration with legislators, who will be more helpful if they better understand the problems under-funding causes to the justice system. Being transparent with financial records and spending, such as by offering data on changes and their outcomes, may also serve to gain the legislature’s trust for future budgetary requests.

Moreover, courts can advocate for better funding by protesting against more financial cuts and making the public aware of the negative effects these cuts have on the judiciary. Nevertheless, the panelists emphasized that there is a limit to what the courts can do. “[L]awyers as officers of the court [also] have an obligation to speak out for adequate court funding,” since “there’s an underlying need below which the courts simply cannot provide access to justice.”