Statement from Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants, Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey and Trial Court Administrator Harry Spence on Governor's Budget Proposal
Although we recognize the financial constraints facing the Governor and the very difficult choices reflected in this budget proposal, we are deeply disappointed with the funding allocated to the Judicial Branch. The provision of justice must be a top priority of government; our courts each day address the most serious problems faced by the residents of this Commonwealth, are essential to the preservation of public safety, and provide the infrastructure for the rule of law indispensable to a successful economy. This proposed budget does not provide the necessary funding for us to operate or staff the courts in a safe and effective manner.
Nor is it fair. The Trial Court has consistently suffered the harshest cuts of any major state organization during the fiscal crisis since FY 2008: while constituting 9% of the Commonwealth's workforce, the Judiciary provided 22% of the state's reduction in force. While the non-Judiciary state budget has grown by 37.3% since FY2008, the Judiciary's budget has grown by 4.6%. Similarly, while the Executive Branch FTE workforce has grown by 1.9% since FY2008, the Judiciary workforce has shrunk by 10.3%. Trial Court staffing has declined by 17% in July 2007 to July 2014, from 7,629 to 6,316. Based on this budget proposal, the Trial Court estimates that it would need to eliminate another 550 employees, making the disparity between the Executive and Judicial Branches even starker.
We in the Judicial Branch take our obligation to those we serve seriously. As part of that obligation we must inform the public of the ramifications of this budget on the Judicial Branch and our ability to deliver justice. This budget proposal jeopardizes the ability of the courts to keep its courthouses open. The Judicial Branch has made much progress in streamlining its operations and increasing access to the public; all of these efforts will be at risk with the current budget proposal.
We look forward to working collaboratively with the Governor and the Legislature to ensure that the Judiciary is funded at a level that ensures that justice is effectively delivered, and that basic criminal justice and public safety needs are met.