Washington Courts: Press Release Detail
Court Funding Task Force strives to fix complex, inadequate funding for trial courts in Washington StateDecember 03, 2003
Courts across Washington State are cutting staff, reducing judges' hours, closing some court locations, struggling to pay jurors, interpreters, public defenders and other court costs, and further cuts may mean loss of courtroom hours and other critical justice services according to recent surveys of judges, county clerks and court administrators.
The surveys were conducted by the statewide Court Funding Task Force, which is in the midst of a two year effort to quantify court funding gaps and to recommend changes to state lawmakers in how trial courts are funded.
To describe the court funding crisis, and the work of the state-level Court Funding Task Force, Chief Justice Gerry Alexander and Court Funding Task Force Chair Wayne Blair will make a presentation to the State Legislature's House Judiciary Committee on Friday, December 5th beginning at 8 a.m.
The Task Force is currently working to place a dollar amount on the funding gap that exists in state courts, as well as results of a unique, county-by-county study of court funding and its impacts on justice services.
Some task force members described Washington's trial court funding situation as a "train wreck" happening in slow motion.
Members hope to have recommendations ready for the 2005 Legislature.
The surveys were conducted as part of the task force's effort to pinpoint the most serious budget problems trial courts are facing now, and what might happen when further cuts hit. They include:
The Task Force was authorized by the state Board for Judicial Administration in late 2002 at the request of two state judges' associations, as courts statewide were being hurt by county and state budget crises. Though many counties saw court budgets increase slightly because of STEP and cost-of-living salary increases, operating costs were cut in many courts across the state. Judges and court administrators were also concerned that future budget cuts will further gouge justice services.
Court funding in Washington has been discussed by task forces and court improvement committees for more than 20 years, with frequent calls for change, but this is the first task force dedicated solely to examining the funding system.
According to a 1999 report by the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics, Washington ranks 50th in state government contributions towards funding of the trial courts.
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