Archives

News

Courts in crisisThe House released its proposed 2015-2017 budget this morning with some good news for the courts: an infusion of more than $18 million to finally bring the state judicial system into the digital age.

That’s way more than the $5 million former Administrative Office of the Courts director John Smith requested for technology for in his February letter to state budget director Lee Roberts.

The governor had no funding for technology in his proposed budget.

The court system would also get a much-needed boost in its operating budget — technology aside — with $15.6 million allotted over two years to cover things such as interpreters, expert witnesses, juries and other “constitutionally and legally mandated legal services as necessary to operate the State court system.”

Here’s what AOC chief legal counsel Tom Murry says the latter category includes:

Murry

That amount aligns closely with what Judge Smith and the governor had requested ($15.9 million and $16 million respectively).

One glaring omission from both the House and the governor’s budget?  Funding to bring court system staffing up to workload needs — 536 new positions, according the AOC request.

Here’s a snapshot of the House proposal:

House judicial budget

###

Commentary

Mark MartinThe Charlotte Observer has reprinted the remarks that new state Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin made at his swearing-in ceremony on Monday.

Lots of it was fairly standard stuff about improving efficiency and civics education, but at least two sections amount to direct repudiations of the state’s conservative political leaders on critically important topics — courts funding and transparency.

According to Martin, current funding for and transparency in the state judiciary are both inadequate. And on these points — if he’s really serious, that is — he’s dead on.

As Policy Watch reporter Sharon McCloskey has reported repeatedly, funding for the state courts system has fallen to crisis levels under the current General Assembly and Governor and has reached the point at which citizens are simply being denied access to justice because the courts can’t afford basic things.

As McCloskey has also reported, the same can be said for the issue of transparency — most notably and egregiously in the enactment of the new “star chamber” law that allows the Supreme Court members to consider complaints against their own members (and mete out discipline) in complete secrecy.

Martin’s comments were fairly general  in nature, but let’s fervently hope that he was just being, ahem, judicious with his language, really means what he said and that he’s got the guts to talk back to his fellow Republicans on these critically important issues in the coming weeks.

 

Uncategorized

The next time you find yourself wandering the halls of the Wake County Courthouse (or courthouses elsewhere around the state), wondering why your day in court is delayed yet again, you might want to give state Senator Bill Rabon — or his colleagues Sens. Tom Apodaca and Neal Hunt — and thank them personally.

Together they’re the sponsors of Senate Bill 10, the proposal which among other things (like ridding the state of certain boards and commissions and replacing members of others with people whose thinking is more akin to that of the Republican majority), calls for the elimination of 12 special superior court judgeships.

Here’s the list of those on the chopping block (the cuts don’t include the business court judges):

20130206--Special_Superior_Court_Judges

Why the judges? Read More