Justice in Jeopardy Implementation
September 17, 2010
Members present: Chief Justice Madsen, co-chair: Judge Deborah Fleck, co-chair; Mr. Jim Bamberger; Mr. Stan Bastian; Judge Stephen Brown; Mr. John Cary; Judge Sara Derr; Mr. Jeff Hall; Judge Eileen Kato; Ms. Paula Littlewood; Ms. Joanne Moore; Mr. Salvador Mungia; Judge Christine Quinn-Brintnall; Mr. Ron Ward; Judge Steve Warning
Staff present: Ms. Karen Castillo; Ms. Mellani McAleenan; Mr. Ramsey Radwan; Ms. Wendy Ferrell; Ms. Lorrie Thompson
Guests present: Ms. Nell McNamara, EJC; Ms. Sophia Byrd-McSherry, OPD; Mr. Steven Toole, WSBA President-elect
Call to Order: The meeting was called to order by Judge Fleck, who welcomed everyone and asked them to introduce themselves.
Approval of Meeting Minutes:
Judge Fleck asked if there are any amendments to the August 11, 2010 Meeting Minutes. She noted a change in language to be made on page four under the heading of State Funding for Court Interpreters. Mr. Bamberger also noted a needed correction to a dollar amount on page five; “$822,000” should read “$722,000”. The motion was made and seconded to approve the August 11, 2010 Meeting Minutes as amended. Motion carried.
Communications/Outreach Subcommittee Update
Judge Fleck referenced the materials in the packet and asked Ms. Ferrell and Ms. Thompson to discuss the surveys and the major initiatives.
Ms. Ferrell reported that they are partnering with the Equal Justice Coalition to hold an open house at the Thurston County Courthouse. She said that Judge Paula Casey was enthusiastic about the idea and that planning efforts will begin next week.
Ms. Thompson discussed the surveys that were done. She said they’ve received 80 responses, and more are still coming in. They were very pleased with what they received, and they are now working on tabulating them. Some of the trends showed a strong emotional response. There are deep concerns expressed by everyone about what’s coming next. Very common cuts are listed, and any services not mandated are on the chopping block. Judicial officers are doing their own work; there is a high level of stress among staff members; line staff is being cut. There appears to be an increasing number of pro se cases, which creates more work for less staff. Court facilitators’ hours are being cut. Most counties are trying to keep their specialty courts. Ms. Thompson said she will send the full report to members once she has fully tabulated it and processed it to get a good overview.
Judge Fleck complimented staff on the great work. She asked Ms. Ferrell to do an open house in King County after the results of the ballot initiatives are in. The initiatives in King County include a new juvenile facility. There was some discussion about how to do the outreach. Judge Churchill and Judge Fleck will work with local media contacts to ask them to do some investigative reporting about the judicial branch. She referenced the article in the Bar Bulletin about the volunteer efforts.
Mr. Ramsey Radwan distributed a two-page summary and proceeded to discuss the information contained therein. The tone and terms used in the September 3, 2010 Economic and Revenue Forecast update were very bleak. The economic slump has not improved, and the blue chip forecast that will come out in October will probably indicate a worsening of economic activity at the national level. He said that the 2011-2013 revenue forecast indicated that revenues would be 17% greater than current collections, but he thinks that is too optimistic. He also noted that not all new taxes are being repealed by initiatives.
Mr. Radwan reported that the governor thinks the reductions to the judicial branch should be based on the 2011 budget. He said that the next couple of weeks will be very interesting as OFM begins to implement the Governor’s directives to all branches of government.
A brief question and answer period ensued, followed by a discussion about strategies for engaging the legislature in the coming session. Those strategies included looking to possible outside groups to engage in the effort to support funding for the courts.
2009-2011 Across-the-Board Cuts
Mr. Jeff Hall discussed the 6.3 percent budget reductions ordered by the Governor yesterday in light of the $520 million cash deficit. He said that the order exempts some allotments that are constitutionally required, such as debt service, pension, and education. He said that some other allotments are also constitutionally required within the judicial branch and have the same level of protection when looking at reductions. The cuts are against the entire base of the General Fund appropriations of the judicial branch, he said, adding that, because we are into the fiscal year, the actual cuts will be greater than 6.3% over the remainder of the fiscal year. He said that the Chief Justice sent a letter to the Governor indicating our intent to continue to work with the legislative and executive branches during this fiscal crisis. However, the court does maintain our previous position that the governor’s authority to cut agency budgets does not extend to the judicial branch.
Mr. Hall added that there are certain functions that are constitutionally required and have to be funded. The executive branch cannot determine what those functions are. He added that they will work to determine what areas can be cut.
Judge Fleck asked if only things like judges’ salaries are exempt from cuts. Mr. Hall said that it will take a two part analysis. 1) What functions are required by the constitution and therefore removed before applying the 6.3 percent reduction? 2) At what point do those reductions impair the courts from providing the constitutionally required services?
Ms. Moore said they are doing additional analysis. Mr. Bamberger noted that one of the lessons learned is that the court has looked at the administration of justice as a system. It is up to the court to determine what direct and support functions need to be maintained in order to ensure the timely, open and fair administration of justice.
Mr. Hall said that they won’t know until they look at the analysis if the agency can meet the 6.3 percent cut without impairing the court’s ability to perform its constitutional responsibilities.
Chief Madsen commented that the legislature has expressed a preference to do this legislatively. They have the constitutional authority to tell the judiciary what it will have to cut. Mr. Hall responded that this is a key point. As soon as the legislature reduces the appropriations, the Governor’s order goes away.
Several expressed the hope that work will begin very soon to engage other groups and develop an action plan. Chief Justice Madsen replied that they have already met with the SCJA and the DMCJA. She expressed confidence that this won’t take a lot of time, adding that they have a deadline of October 1.
Judge Fleck asked if there were any additional comments on the outreach. Ms. Ferrell added that Chief Justice Madsen also has a vision for some TVW programs, and they are working on that.
Judge Fleck asked Chief Justice Madsen if she had brought back any ideas from the Chief Justices’ Conference she recently attended. Chief Justice Madsen replied that they are following up on the one-hour segments about the budget crisis impact on the judicial branch. They want to include various people in the segment – people who can talk about what’s happening from their perspective, i.e. presidents of the WSBA, SCJA, DMCJA, etc. She also added that the NCSC is launching an effort to ask major donors in each of the parties to form a group to be promoters of the judicial branch.
Mr. Mungia said that another idea put forward at the conference was to have the General Counsel get together and be spokespeople for the judicial branch. Corporations funded the effort to form task forces, to become a marketing arm for the courts.
Judge Warning said that the Civil Defense Trial Lawyers would also like to be approached.
Chief Justice Madsen replied that the trial lawyers have quite a bit of influence in the legislature. Those are some ideas that the Committee needs to pursue.
There was additional discussion about ways to bring other groups into the process of promoting the courts’ issues. Ms. Littlewood reported that the WSBA will hold a meeting on November 5 and suggested that it would be a good place for people to voice their support for court funding. She added that the groups represented at that meeting go well beyond the Bar groups (i.e. legislators, business people).
It was determined that, prior to the meeting in November, Mr. Toole, Mr. Bamberger, Ms. Moore, Judge Warning, Ms. McAleenan, and Mr. Tom Parker will meet to brainstorm about who to pull together to talk about the crisis in the courts, and then prepare them to present their concerns and articulate their support for the courts at the November 5th WSBA meeting.
Chief Justice Madsen said she would enjoy hosting a group at the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court Budget Process Update
Judge Fleck discussed the items she had provided, which included the draft of the SCJA decision package. She said that they will possibly use this draft document in discussions with the legislature. Reviewing the previous year’s decision package, she noted that court operations took the heaviest hit out of Justice in Jeopardy. Sufficient funds are needed to meet federal requirements in providing GAL’s to children. Funding for language interpreters was cut 70 percent.
Judge Brown commented that the district and municipal courts have all the same issues as the superior courts. For example, there was a small claims trial yesterday that required an interpreter. From the local funders, if you have to cut 5 percent, you cut across the board, he noted.
Chief Justice Madsen said that, if there are going to be cuts, we need to consider not only the service to our clients, but the service to our courts, i.e. computer support, etc. As long as we continue to include pass-through money, the court is going to have a difficult job to make the priority, but we are looking to the input of all the stakeholders. She added that they have tried to expand the process to make the Supreme Court Budget Committee more available.
Judge Warning asked what the process is once the Supreme Court Budget is handed to the governor, and if there is then an effort to “sell it” to the governor. Chief Justice Madsen replied that they have tried to make the executive aware of what their processes are so that she can have confidence that they have looked very carefully. She added that they don’t try to sell the budget to her, but they do try to sell the process. It’s important to be diplomatic and conscious of the governor’s needs, and to keep her in the loop. They don’t justify to her what they are doing as a branch of government, but they will collaborate with her where they can.
Ms. McAleenan added that they do have to sell it to the legislature, though, and the improved process has helped that.
Ms. Moore reported the OPD had two policy initiatives that would have required $10.5 million per biennium, but they decided that they will not put it in this year’s budget. This is not the year. Increasing the parent representation program through the whole state is one of those ongoing initiatives. They are meeting with the Supreme Court Budget Committee to discuss further budget development. She said that direct service providers are paying the B&O tax increase and higher insurance, so they are asking for a maintenance increase of one percent ($300,000).
Mr. Bamberger reported that his agency (OCLA) is participating in the court budget committee process. They submitted requests and have received feedback. They will have another meeting on Sept. 22. He said that everything that they are doing is informed by the continuing deterioration of the budget situation. Their goal is to be on the same page with the Judicial Branch and be consistent with the message.
Chief Madsen said that they are trying to be mindful of the governor’s position. She added that it is important to thoroughly justify the funding request and to say, “These are the things we cannot forego.”
Judge Brown mentioned the Indigent Defense Rule and said that this is an issue that the JIJIC should be talking about. A brief discussion ensued.
Next Meeting and Adjournment
The next meeting was originally scheduled for November 19, but there will be an effort to determine a better meeting date.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned.
|Courts | Organizations | News | Opinions | Rules | Forms | Directory | Library|
|Back to Top | Privacy and Disclaimer Notices|