Commission on Justice, Efficiency and Accountability
June 22, 1998
June 22, 1998
The meeting was called to order by Mr. Douglas Beighle, Commission chair.
Mr. Beighle reported that he, along with Judge Grosse, Judge Agid and Mary McQueen met with the Superior Court Judges' Association Board. Judge Grosse and Judge Agid also accompanied him to the District and Municipal Court Judges Association Board and the Board for Judicial Administration meetings.
Judge Berschauer advised the Commission that the meeting with Mr. Beighle and the co-chairs had been productive. Further, he felt the presentations were well received and helped to alleviate some of the level of concern. Board members will be distributing a letter to their constituency that provides an update on the work of the Commission.
Judge McBeth reported the fear is state control of funding. The judges are concerned they will lose autonomy through state funding.
Judge Donohue advised the subcommittee has met several times. They are currently in the process of creating benchmarks for judges through the use of the Trial Court Performance Standards. The group is identifying those standards which will be the most important in improving future operations of the courts. They are also determining the best way to measure the standards, along with how to accomplish them inexpensively; i.e., through the use of SCOMIS/DISCIS/ACORDS. The subcommittee will continue its review at its June 26 meeting.
Judge McBeth expressed concern over the jail overcrowding situation which is resulting in the non-service of approximately 247,000 misdemeanor warrants. Some of the law enforcement agencies are no longer servicing warrants simply because the facilities do not exist for housing the defendants. Judge McBeth indicated that the counties/cities may approach the legislature for additional funds to alleviate the jail crisis.
Judge Grosse reported to the Commission that there was not much to add to his previous reports. The subcommittee is still focusing on the five non-discretionary areas (indigent defense, judicial salaries, jury fees, expert witness fees and interpreter fees), while the Best Practices and Core Mission Subcommittee complete their reviews which may result in additional funding issues.
The Commission discussed the need to demonstrate to the legislature the efficiencies that could be realized by the state assumption of some non-discretionary areas of court funding. Judge Grosse gave the example of the creation of the Office of Public Defense, an independent agency within the judicial branch, which realized a 2.5 percent savings.
Judge McBeth stated that when requesting the five areas of non-discretionary funding it was important to show why the state should assume the funding responsibility through efficiencies and the money saved. Possibilities include: 1) better service would be provided; 2) money saved in indigent defense--show appellate system model; 3) money would be saved in the jury system and create a better system; 4) state assumption of salaries would allow a judge to handle any warrant issued by any city or county in the state, which would immediately begin the 60/90 day rule. Judge McBeth stated cities and counties must be part of these discussions.
The Commission continued discussions relating to the demonstration of efficiencies pertaining to the state's assumption of the five non-discretionary areas.
Mr. Beighle reminded the Commission that the recommendations would be reported back to the Board for Judicial Administration. He added Ms. McQueen will be hiring the project director. That person will pull together the recommendations of the three subcommittees and the structure subcommittee.
Mr. Howe stressed the importance of the involvement of the two legislative members: Representative Sommers and Representative Huff, on the Funding Subcommittee.
Judge Grosse stated it was essential to have the proposed legislative packages before the full Commission and the Board for Judicial Administration for their review in October, November at the very latest.
Representative Lambert advised the Commission that the upcoming legislative weekends would provide a good opportunity to put information before the Law and Justice Committee. The information does not necessarily need to include hard numbers, but at a minimum should cover concepts.
Mr. Billingslea stated that Governor Locke's budget would be out in September.
Judge Agid reported the subcommittee is in the process of identifying those functions that are required by state constitution/statute/court rule from those the courts functions are not required to perform. Judge Agid continued, the legislature tends to "dump" additional responsibilities onto the courts because the courts are trusted to provide a fair resolution without looking at their own self interest.
Judge Agid stated the subcommittee would be given an opportunity to review the revised list of responsibilities before it was distributed to the Commission. That information will be provided to the JEA members prior to the August meeting.
Ms. McQueen expressed the need to receive final "buy-off" on the recommendations from the Funding Subcommittee. She suggested that could be accomplished through a judicial survey. OAC staff would work with the subcommittee in creating the questions, with responses requested by the end of July first of August.
The Commission agreed, following discussion, that at the present time, in lieu of the judicial survey, meetings will be held with the judicial association boards.
The Commission continued discussions relating to the upcoming legislative session; whether it was possible to assemble a proposal or if emergency funding should be requested for the problem areas.
The Commission agreed the subcommittee reports should be disseminated prior to the next meeting to provide an opportunity for the members' careful review for discussion at the August meeting.
The next meeting was set for Monday, August 17.
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