COURT AND TRIAL COURT ASK LEGISLATORS
TO RESTORE FUNDS CRITICAL TO FUNCTIONING OF JUDICIAL BRANCH
Boston-Stating that "the public's
right to fair and timely administration of justice will be
seriously jeopardized without adequate funds for the Judicial
Branch," Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall and the other
Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court today sent letters
to the legislators who are debating the Fiscal Year 2003 budget
as members of the joint conference committee. The Justices
are asking the legislators to "restore funds critical
to the functioning of the judicial branch" in fiscal
year 2003, which begins on July 1, 2002.
Chief Justice for Administration and Management Barbara A.
Dortch-Okara also wrote to the conference committee members
this week seeking sufficient funds for the Trial Court.
The Justices are requesting that the minimum appropriation
for the Trial Court be the amount proposed in the House of
Representatives FY03 budget--$458,437, 860-which is close
to the FY02 funding for the Trial Court. They emphasized,
however, that the Chief Justice for Administration and Management
should be given the authority to transfer funds among Trial
Court Departments, as the Legislature enabled her to do in
the current fiscal year budget.
"We request that the authorization be renewed as management
flexibility will be essential to allocate diminished resources
responsibly," the Justices wrote.
The Justices also cautioned that the minimum amount they are
requesting for the Trial Court is still a significant cut
from the Trial Court's projected needs and will require reductions
in court personnel and services for the public. This year,
the Trial Court lost 800 employees through attrition, layoffs
and early retirements. The Justices stated that an additional
loss of personnel "will be difficult for the court system
to absorb" and "unfortunately, the public will bear
the brunt of these cuts in direct services to them."
The Justices also wrote that that they "are deeply concerned
that budget proposals by both the House and Senate would significantly
underfund the Supreme Judicial Court" and stated that
proposed cuts for FY03 are "far deeper" than those
recommended for other courts in the system. They said it would
cause a reduction in staff "crucial to our operations
and service to the public."
"If enacted, these reductions would gravely impede our
ability to resolve appeals in a timely manner, compromise
security in and around our courtroom, and hamper our ability
to manage our daily business," the Justices wrote.
The Justices are requesting an appropriation of $4,844,744
for the SJC's administrative account, the amount that the
Senate proposed, and $422,770 for the SJC's Information Technology
account, which is equal to the amount proposed by the House.
The Justices said that restoration of the IT funds recommended
in the House budget is needed to maintain the existing information
technology network in the Supreme Judicial Court and the Appeals