Lawyers e-Journal

Thursday, May. 5, 2011
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State budget update and call-to-action

Weigh-in with your senator on court budget and bar advocates

No branch of government has been harder hit throughout this fiscal crisis than the judiciary. FY11 funding for the Trial Court is $544.1 million (down $39.6 million from FY09). The House of Representatives recently enacted its version of the budget, funding the court at $520.5 million, which is a $23.6 million cut from the current operating budget. The courts are faced with a continuing hiring freeze and are down 1,011 positions since October 2008. Court leadership continues to aggressively pursue every avenue where cost savings can be achieved. Rank and file judges have forsaken pay by voluntarily participating in a pay furlough.

The Senate is finalizing its budget for consideration later this month. It is vital that you reach out to your state senator to articulate the need for adequate funding for the judiciary to serve the 42,000 citizens who enter our courts each and every day.

Click here to find out who your senator is.
Click here to contact your senator.

The House Budget provided $151 million for the Committee for Public Counsel Services and adds 200 staff attorneys while capping hours of assigned private counsel at 1,650 from the current cap of 1,800 hours per year. Please advocate to your senator for the continued support of the current private bar advocate system. The MBA believes the current system works well and the tremendous and unforeseen start up costs associated with new legislation that would require the hiring of hundreds of new state employees will prove more costly. Costs associated with office space, support staff, salary and training will not only have short and long-term implications for our state's struggling economy, but will also greatly affect the quality of advocacy. Please call your local senator to urge him/her to reject this plan and instead advocate for greater indigency and cost controls while maintaining the existing private system that has been recognized as a national model.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that most states with public defender systems are struggling because of a lack of funding along with burgeoning caseloads and escalating costs to the public.

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