Budget Cuts Would Harm State Courts, Says Glen Johnson

Article excerpt

A $5 million computer system would be abandoned and 48 special district judgeships eliminated if the state's court system is forced to cut 16.5 percent of its budget, Rep. Glen Johnson said Monday.

""These are not attractive or even feasible alternatives,'' said Johnson, chairman of a House appropriations subcommittee dealing with the courts.

But Johnson said state leaders had not agreed whether the judiciary would be spared the 16.5 percent cuts facing other state agencies as the Legislature meets a $467 million shortfall.

The problem with cutting court budgets, Johnson said, is that it can't be done without eliminating employees.

According to Charles Ferrell Jr., administrative director of the courts, 98 percent of the district courts budget of $17.1 million is spent on personnel. Of the $5.3 million spent on the appellate courts, 80 percent goes for personnel, Ferrell said.

Under a 16.5 percent reduction, Johnson said the state's Supreme Court would eliminate a $5 million computer and return to manual record keeping; 48 special district judgeships would be cut; the Court of Criminal Appeals would do away with its internship program and furlough employees one day a month; and the Workers Compensation Court would reduce travel and equipment expenses and not fill vacancies. …