Funding Alternatives Work Group
March 12, 2003
Two Union Square, Seattle
Participants: J. Kirkham Johns, co-chair; Roland Hjorth, co-chair; Judge Rick Bathum; John Cary; Michael Chapman; Steve Crossland; David Donnan; Robert Dowdy; Joan Ferebee; Judge Deborah Fleck; William Fosbre; Judge Gordon Godfrey; Ron Mattson; Mary McQueen; Barb Miner; Andra Motyka; Glenn Olson; and Hugh Spitzer
Guests: M. Wayne Blair
Staff: Gil Austin, Jude Cryderman and Jeff Hall
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order by Kirk Johns, co-chair.
The members introduced themselves.
Mr. Blair advised of the Superior Court Judges’ Association Board of Trustees long-range planning a year ago at which court funding was the theme. In particular, the Board focused on what to do about inadequate long term funding.
Mr. Blair explained that five or six task force reports have been issued over the past 15 years recommending efficiencies for a more effective court system. The consistent theme in all of the reports is inadequate funding.
Mr. Blair said that the Board for Judicial Administration (BJA), at its April meeting, authorized the creation of a task force to study the issue of court funding. The Task Force has held two meeting one in October and one November; as a result the five work group was created.
The five work groups are:
Problem Definition Work Group—Jeff Amram and Jan Michels, co-chairs
This group will determine how inadequate, long-term funding impacts the courts and their users. They will also determine how much money is needed to adequately funding the courts and for what purposes.
Courts of Limited Jurisdiction – Delivery of Services Work Group—Judge Ann Schindler and Ron Ward, co-chairs
This group will consider the consolidation of district and municipal courts. In addition, they will study the challenges faced by the King County District Courts. They will review the contracts between the counties and cites in an effort to determine if that’s the most effective and efficient way to deliver judicial services.
Public Education—Cheryl Bleakney and Judge Tom Warren
The objective of this work group is the education of elected officials and the public about the inadequacy of trial court funding. They will also educate about the long-term effects of inadequate funding.
Implementation Strategies—John Cary, Judge Stephen Dwyer, Judge Deborah Fleck
This group will explore the necessary changes for the funding responsibilities for court funding (i.e., court rules, constitutional amendment, statutory).
Mr. Johns advised the members of Judge Godfrey and Judge Fleck’s effort in the preparation of materials for this issue. He also advised of Mary McQueen’s extensive knowledge of court operations. He continued Robert Dowdy represents a major user of the court system.
Mr. Hall briefly described the materials provided to the work group.
Mr. Johns advised that many of the materials are duplicative containing facts and figures. Mr. Johns indicated that he would devise a way to organize the materials.
Ms. Cryderman briefly reviewed the state travel voucher and the process used to complete and submit the voucher.
Review of Work Group Charge
Mr. Hjorth reviewed the work group’s charge which includes the way the court system is currently funded, how the dollars are raised, what is the amount of the shortfall and how can that money be made up, what are some of the sources of revenue that might be used to make up the shortfall.
Mr. Hjorth said there is a need to complete the charge of the work group. He pointed out that John Cary is particularly interested in the work of this work group as decisions made in the Funding Alternatives Work Group will impact the Implementation Strategies Work Group.
Identification of Sources of Information
Judge Godfrey said the fundamentals such as where does the money come from, how is the Public Safety and Education Account (PSEA) set up, how much money is there, etc. He also said one of the questions is whether courts should continue to be troubled by the current methods of fines imposed by the Courts of Limited Jurisdiction.
Mr. Dowdy asked if there was an overview of the current funding mechanism. He also asked whether the work group will establish a set of principles for funding courts.
Mr. Hjorth endorsed the establishing of principles. He continued funding should not be based on fines and filing fees. He also said the work group should explore how to fund the courts in ideal circumstances.
Judge Godfrey reported that only 1.1% of local and state government expenditures goes to fund the court system including the judges, judges’ staff, court administration staff, etc. These expenditures do not include the court clerk at that position is part of the executive branch. Judge Godfrey advised that Initiative 62 (RCW 43.135.060) prevents the state from putting the burden on local government for any new programs unless they are funded. He continued that in 1980 King County received 5 new judgeships, a request was made of the attorney general relating to the impact of I-62 on the request for additional judges. The attorney general advised that the state is required by I-62 to reimburse the county for its added costs by increasing the number of judges. Judge Godfrey advised that his opinion has never been adhered to by the state.
Judge Godfrey reported in 1990 the legislature passed the Criminal Justice Funding Act. The Act provided that money appropriated shall not supplant existing local funding for criminal justice programs. He advised that the state pays one-half of the salaries of superior court judges and all of the benefits. The counties pay all of the salaries and benefits for the district court judges.
Mr. Hjorth stated he’d like statistics showing the dollars currently being spent for the court system, where the money is coming from and the estimated shortfall. He’d prefer concise information condensed to one page.
Mr. Johns stated it is necessary to start with a clean slate and look outside the box. He continued in an effort to secure stable, long-term, adequate funding there is no choice but to start from scratch in researching funding option.
Mr. Johns advised the members that Washington has the lowest state contribution to the court contributes than any other state in the country. He continued that Washington tends to pay as little as possible from one fund while grabbing as much revenue as possible from funds collected at the local level.
Ms. McQueen advised that it takes about $400 million to run the court system, of that $175 million is generated by the courts and $225 million is borne by local government.
Mr. Cary inquired if the work group would look within existing revenue sources or look to other option for possible revenue sources. Mr. Johns responded the work group charge includes looking at alternate sources of funding for the courts.
Mr. Hjorth normalized how the state and counties are both under a budget crunch and the work group needs to consider how much the state and counties need to be paying towards the courts.
Judge Godfrey pointed out that the funding should include juvenile court operations which are normally funded through the executive branch. Mr. Blair added that civil indigent defense is not included in the budget. He stated that although the clerks are in support of the courts, they are in another branch of government.
Mr. Cary indicated the work group should stay within in the existing tax structure and existing revenue sources. He said the question before the work group is whether there are any new sources of revenue for the counties or state.
Mr. Spitzer feels it unfair that the county has to pay most of the cost of courts since they have so little to do with the policy of the courts and very little control.
Mr. Cary pointed out that the county, through the sheriff, does control who is arrested and who is prosecuted through the prosecutor’s office.
Mr. Olson explained the counties understand they must fund the courts and finds funding the jails more troublesome because the state legislature is passing the laws that fill the jails.
Mr. Dowdy stated it was very helpful to hear the concerns, but not very productive. He stressed the need to establish principles that should underline the future system.
Mr. Crossland agreed that principles should be established. He advised that the equal justice concerns may be lost in small rural counties when it comes down to funding costs.
Judge Fleck reported that the Court Funding Task Force had agreed not to look at funding for the entire criminal justice system, but instead focus on trial court funding.
Discussion and Identification of Committees
The work group discussed the development of a set of principles. They also briefly discussed the activities of the Problem Definition Work Group and whether they would consider jail funding. It was pointed out that it is necessary that the work groups are kept apprised of each others work.
Mr. Johns reviewed the proposed seven committees. He said the committees would meet between work group meetings and report back to the full work group.
The proposed committee are:
1) Godfrey Committee – study constitutional and statutory requirements for court funding.
2) Prior Study/Studies – collect the actual reports (not executive summaries), distill recommendation and report back to the work group. The committee would also focus on prior recommendations and what was behind those recommendations.
3) Principles – consider goals of administration of justice and what procedures are in place to best satisfy goals and needs.
4) Work Sheet – take facts and data and distill into one page document.
5) Structure and Process
6) Funding Amount Needed
7) Funding Sources – existing and new
Ms. McQueen advise the work group that AOC does not have the staff to support seven additional committees. The work group discussed how the committee should go about their work.
Mr. Johns stated that earlier Washington State studies, ABA studies, information from other states and the National Center for State Courts are all resources that can be used by the committees.
Mr. Hjorth stressed the need to first establish principles which should be discussed by the full work group. He said the principles will decide the job for the whole group. He said it would be helpful to know what other states are doing.
Mr. Spitzer said the focus of the work group should be mapped out. The meeting groups should work with staff to develop information for the next meeting.
Ms. McQueen advised that information for the judiciary long-range plan can provided. She also suggested long-range plans for other states should be reviewed.
Judge Tracy recommended that a couple of items should be identified for discussion at the next meeting.
Mr. Crossland suggested the members advise which committee they wish to serve on and assist with putting together information for the whole work group to discuss.
Ms. McQueen suggested the topics for the next meeting: constitutional framework; current studies; and principles.
Mr. Fosbre said he re-read the work group charge and thinks the current system needs to be studied so that an effort could be made that’s productive for the courts.
Mr. Johns reviewed the proposed meeting schedule.
There being no further business the meeting was adjourned.