State Judicial Branch Budgets in Times of Fiscal Crisis

Article excerpt

Adopted by the Court Management Committee of the Conference of Chief Justices, January 21, 2004.

WHEREAS, state governments are currently experiencing the worst fiscal crisis in decades, and many state courts are facing deep budget cuts, court closures, jury trial suspensions, layoffs, hiring freezes and the like; and

WHEREAS, many state judicial systems have found it difficult to secure adequate resources even in good economic times, and are therefore particularly vulnerable in this fiscal crisis; and

WHEREAS, state courts need to operate from a position of strength in the budget process in order to avoid unreasonable budget cuts and external micro-management that undermine the courts' ability to carry out their mission during difficult fiscal times; and

WHEREAS, judicial governance of certain core functions is essential to meeting the courts' constitutional responsibility to the citizenry; and

WHEREAS, the Judiciary, as a responsible partner in government, recognizes its obligation to share in the sacrifices being made by state government during a fiscal crisis; and

WHEREAS, the Judicial Branch's obligation to be a good partner in government in no way detracts from the necessity of providing the courts with adequate funding given the Judiciary's constitutional status as a separate and co-equal branch of government responsible for upholding the rule of law and performing certain core functions at the heart of democratic government;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Conference in general endorses the broad principles and practical strategies set forth in the White Paper on State Judicial Budgets in Times of Fiscal Crisis (prepared by the Conference of State Court Administrators), including the following principles and strategies:

1. An important determinant of success in obtaining adequate resources in difficult fiscal times is the Judicial Branch's credibility with the other Branches and with the public, based on a track record of good governance, such as

* Consistent submission over time of prudent, transparent judicial budget requests that provide clear justification for the resources requested, and judicial budget priorities that are consistent from year to year.

* Sound financial management system-wide and among individual courts.

* Efforts to measure and report on the courts' management performance.

* Self-imposed austerity measures during difficult budget times.

2. The Chief Justice is the inspirational leader of the courts and should be a strong, visible advocate for their needs and priorities. …