April 15, 2011
Joint Statement of
Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland and Chief Justice Robert A. Mulligan
House Recommends Significant Trial Court Budget Cuts
We are very concerned that the House Ways & Means Committee recommended $25.4 million in additional cuts to the Trial Court budget. That budget, which was issued this week, recommends Trial Court funding of $518.7 million, significantly below our FY11 appropriation of $544.1 million.
Trial Court funding, if finalized at the level of the House Ways & Means recommendation, will require drastic action, including further courthouse consolidations, in view of the extensive measures already required by the significant cuts of the past two years.
The House does not address an essential management tool: that is the ability to transfer resources among thirteen line items. A reduction of more than $25 million requires greater management flexibility than ever. The Probation Reform Working Group of the Legislative and Executive Branches recognized the importance of full transferability to ensure the effective use of the Trial Court's limited resources.
With 1,007 fewer employees than in July 2008, we know that our dedicated court staff is stretched beyond capacity in many locations. Already, 76 of 116 court divisions are staffed below 85 percent of the staffing level prescribed by the staffing model and 28 divisions are below 70 percent. As a result of staff shortages, our backlog of cases pending beyond time standards has climbed by 23,000 over the past three years.
We believe that few entities across the state match the extent of management reforms and operational improvements introduced by the courts since 2003. We have established performance standards, held ourselves accountable, and responsibly managed the business of the Judicial Branch. Chief Justices, Judges, Clerks and Probation staff all have collaborated to enhance our operations. Those efforts along with our Security and Facilities personnel have allowed us to keep courthouse doors open through very challenging times.
It is still early in the FY12 budget process and we will continue to work closely with the House and Senate in the weeks ahead underscoring the Judicial Branch's key role in ensuring public stability and security.
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