Saturday, August 20, 2011

ABA: Courts Are In Crisis

The America Bar Association Task Force on Preservation of the Justice System Report to the House of Delegates released its report on the state of America’s court system. The findings are dire.

The report starts out with, “The courts of our country are in crisis.”

The report continues in part: The failure of state and local legislatures to provide adequate funding is effectively –at times quite literally—closing the doors of our justice system. At the same time, Congress has reduced its support for both the federal courts and other programs that directly and indirectly support our justice system at the state, county and municipal levels.

As a result, over the last few years, the courts of virtually every state have been forced
into debilitating combinations of hiring freezes, pay cuts, judicial furloughs, staff layoffs, early retirements, increased filing fees, and outright closures.

State judicial officers have attempted to cope with these cuts in various ways -- all of
which have a direct and negative effect on the pace and quality of adjudications. Over the last two years,
-- Twenty-six states have delayed filling judicial vacancies; thirty-one, judicial support
positions; and thirty-four, vacancies in clerks’ offices.
-- Thirty-one states have either frozen or reduced the salaries of judges or staff.
-- Sixteen have furloughed clerical staff, with commensurate reductions in pay; and nine
have extended those furloughs to judges as well.
-- Fourteen states have simply laid off staff entirely.
-- Some twenty-two state court systems have attempted to offset some of these budget
cuts by increasing filing fees and/or fines.
-- Last, but hardly least, fourteen state court systems have been forced to curtail the
hours and even entire days they are open.

The ABA recommends, among other things, that state and local governments “recognize their constitutional responsibilities to fund their justice systems adequately, provide that funding as a governmental priority, and develop principles that would provide for stable and predictable levels of funding of those justice systems.

To read full report:

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