Washington Courts: Press Release Detail
Task Force Finds Justice in JeopardyDecember 15, 2004
The crisis has been precipitated not only by current budget hardships, but a critically imbalanced funding system that places 90 percent of the financial burden for state courts on counties and cities, the Task Force reported.
“The Task Force Report shows that
Following more than two years of research and collaboration, the Court Funding Task Force --- which included five workgroups and more than 100 members of all ba
An implementation committee, led by Chief Justice Alexander, King County Superior Court Judge Deborah Fleck and Task Force Chair M.
The Task Force undertook a first-ever extensive review of court funding in the many jurisdictions across the state, as well as research into problems caused by the funding system and how courts are funded in other
Task Force findings and conclusions include:
· In 2000,
· Total contribution to the judicial branch of government equals less than 3/10 of 1 percent of the state budget.
· While most counties allocate approximately 70 percent of their general fund budgets to criminal justice costs, the average county budget allocation toward courts is 6 percent of a local budget, with the rest going to police and jail costs.
· 43 percent of the state’s district and municipal courts have no probation services to perform pre-sentence investigations or to monitor potentially dangerous defendants.
· The state pays nothing toward the cost of district or municipal courts or public defense.
· Though the state pays only a small percentage of court costs, its laws and agencies are major drivers of court workloads. In 2002, the Washington State Patrol was responsible for 88 percent of DUI charges and 70 percent of traffic infractions filed in district courts.
· The three most critical needs in the justice system include more stable and equitable funding of trial court operations, public defense, and improved funding and administration of civil legal aid services.
· The state should work toward assuming approximately 50 percent of the cost of trial court operations and public defense, and become an equal partner with counties and cities in supporting a quality state justice system.
“We found that the lack of adequate, stable funding places our system of justice in jeopardy and undermines the public’s trust and confidence in the courts,” said Task Force Chairman M.
“Equal justice is not simply a goal to strive for; rather it is the basic foundation of a just democratic society. In many ways our work is just beginning, as we work to implement the many recommendations of this Task Force,” said Blair.
The full report, in a PDF format is available online at: http://www.courts.wa.gov/programs_orgs/pos_bja/wgFinal/wgFinal.pdf
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