Who Pays for Justice? Perspectives on State Court System Financing and Governance

Who Pays for Justice? Perspectives on State Court System Financing and Governance

Who Pays for Justice? Perspectives on State Court System Financing and Governance

Who Pays for Justice? Perspectives on State Court System Financing and Governance

Synopsis

Many state judicial systems experienced significant cuts to their operating budgets following the 2008 financial crisis and during the ensuing years of reduced state treasuries. Researchers surveyed experts from five states that use a variety of approaches to funding state court systems. The report documents that there is ample variation across the states in terms of how their court systems receive their annual funding, how they account for and track their budgets, and how the court systems are governed. An appreciation of these dimensions of difference is crucial for policymakers, court administrators, and those concerned about ensuring high levels of access to justice through the state courts and the long-term stability of the courts as an institution of government.

Excerpt

In 2011, the rand Institute for Civil Justice conducted a broad review of the impact of the financial crisis on the civil justice system. One major area of inquiry involved funding for state courts. Widespread anecdotal accounts suggest that state court funding has significantly dropped from precrisis levels in many parts of the country. Moreover, given broader fiscal problems and trends toward government austerity, it now appears unlikely that lost resources will be restored in the near future. What funding cuts will eventually mean for the function of the state courts, and for litigants who depend on access to those courts, remains to be seen.

Subsequently, rand launched a new study to help understand the variation that exists in the finance and administrative governance of state court systems across the country. Our aim is to investigate and describe state court systems’ funding mechanisms, corresponding elements in the systems’ budgetary accounting, and the systems’ management structure as it relates to generating and spending resources. Such information could be key to understanding what publicly reported budget numbers actually mean for the state courts. in turn, that understanding will be vital to tracking the financial health of state court systems in the future, and to future studies seeking to gauge the impact of judicial branch funding levels on the work that state courts actually carry out.

This work should be of interest to policymakers, court administrators, and other stakeholders concerned about ensuring high levels of access to justice through the state courts and the longterm stability of the courts as an institution of government. Previous rand research in this area yielded the report An Early Assessment of the Civil Justice System After the Financial Crisis: Something Wicked This Way Comes? (Greenberg and McGovern, 2012).

Rand Institute for Civil Justice

The rand Institute for Civil Justice (ICJ) is dedicated to improving the civil justice system by supplying policymakers and the public with rigorous and nonpartisan research. Its studies identify trends in litigation and inform policy choices concerning liability, compensation, regulation, risk management, and insurance. the institute builds on a long tradition of rand Corporation research characterized by an interdisciplinary, empirical approach to public policy issues and rigorous standards of quality, objectivity, and independence.

Icj research is supported by pooled grants from a range of sources, including corporations, trade and professional associations, individuals, government agencies, and private foundations. All its reports are subject to peer review and disseminated widely to policymakers, practitioners in law and business, other researchers, and the public.

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