Court Funding Task Force
Funding Alternatives Work Group
July 10, 2003
Members Attending: Ron Hjorth, co-chair, Kirk Johns, co-chair, Wayne Blair, Sophia Byrd, Richard Carlson, John Cary, David Donnan, Kim Eaton, Judge Deborah Fleck, William Fosbre, Judge Gordon Godfrey, Judge Bruce Hilyer, Mary McQueen, Barb Miner, Glenn Olson, Gail Stone, Judge David Tracy and Judge Richard White
Staff Attending: Gil Austin and Jude Cryderman
Call to order
Mr. Johns stated the work group will have two meetings prior to the full task force meeting in September. Those meeting will be devoted to the development of the preliminary recommendations.
General Tax Revenue
Various Funding Structure Models/Options
Court Budgeting Concepts
COURT BUDGETING MODELS
California (before state funding)
1998 Trial Court Funding Proposal
Ms. McQueen explained that block grants would require the development of a formula. She advised that block grants could be used for anything within the court system. This type of grant is not tied to use, but instead tied to work load. This money is an outright grant.
Ms. Stone said if the work group is trying to decide how the court budget concepts fit into the recommendations, it would be helpful to have information relating to the appropriate state/local funding ratio.
Mr. Olson feels it is time to get the legislature thinking about their money and the courts. Whether through new property or sales tax options, those funds should be dedicated in statute to the courts.
Judge Godfrey said if the option is taxes, information should be provided on past practices with option taxes. He pointed out there is a great disparity in the tax base among the counties. Judge Godfrey next spoke to block grants indicating those projects are usually tied into funding at the local level. He indicated his experience with block grants is that the haves can afford to go out and solicit the grants, while the have nots cannot. He continued, the counties just don’t have the start-up resources.
Ms. McQueen responded these block grants would not be a match, but instead direct appropriations.
Mr. Blair asked that staff provide examples where the state currently gives block grants to the counties. He also asked that they find out if the state put conditions on the money.
The work group briefly discussed issued relating to backfill and supplanting.
Mr. Carlson pointed out that if the goal is to have state/county assume percentage of costs for the operation of the courts, agreement must be reached on the components of the courts. He continued, agreement must also be reached on the appropriate percentage of the state’s role and the county’s role. Mr. Carlson added that block grants stay fixed, while over time money is lost through block grants due to the increase in actual costs.
Mr. Hjorth pointed out that the small group established (Resource Allocation Committee) at the June 19 meeting should assemble to discuss options. Mr. Hjorth requested that there be justification to support the state’s proposed responsibility along with the responsibility of local government. He inquired if Ms. Stone would agree to chair this group.
Ms. Stone agreeded, provided that the meeting is set soon.
Mr. Johns suggested the Resource Allocation Committee (RAC) use the onion chart to create an inventory of trial court functions. Each function should be identified as a state mandated function or a third branch of government function. The result will be an inventory of trial court functions. It was also suggested that RAC meet with the subcommittee of Problem Definition that created the onion chart to assist with the identification of onion chart functions.
Mr. Johns also suggested that Ms. Michels, co-chair of the Problem Definition Work Group, be asked if an hour could be allocated at their next meeting to assist in the identification of items that should be included in the inventory.
Factor and Considerations Relevant to Court Fees
Mr. Johns reviewed the information below.
COURT FUNDING TASK FORCE
Funding Alternatives Work Group
Task Force / Work Group Work Papers
OUTLINE OF CONSIDERATIONS RELEVANT TO
CATEGORIES OF ALL COURT FEES
CONSTITUTIONAL / GOVERNANCE / POLICY
Separation of powers.
Third branch of government.
Judicial independence / autonomy.
Fundamental to public confidence in the
Access to justice.
Fees should not impede access to justice.
Relief from user fees should be available in
Waivers, exemptions, reductions, postponed.
Uniform administration of justice.
Procedures and services that benefit the general public should be funded by the public with general revenues appropriated through the legislative process.
Exceptions to this principle:
Should be invoked with caution;
Should not jeopardize the above
Should reflect the extent to which a br>procedure or service principally benefits private parties; and
Should not require private parties, even
Funding of the courts -- the Third Branch of government -- should not depend on the volume of proceedings in the courts.
Trial court funding should be provided by both public funds and the parties.
There is an indivisible and largely unallocable
POLICIES / PRACTICES / ASSUMPTIONS
TO RECONSIDER AND
AFFIRM, REJECT, OR ADOPT
The public has a legitimate interest in expecting users of the court system who derive a direct private benefit from court procedures and services to contribute to the costs of providing those procedures and services, wherever feasible.
There is always / inherently a mixed public and private benefit stemming from any court procedure or service.
It is not possible to characterize any procedure or
It is difficult (impossible?) to allocate the benefit
User fees can force discipline and caution on the parties, e.g.:
Fewer unmeritorious cases filed or pursued;
More cautious use of motions.
Parties who make a greater use of court procedures, services and resources should make a proportionately greater contribution to the costs associated with providing those procedures, resources and services than parties who make less use of same.
CONSIDERATIONS RE WHO SHOULD ESTABLISH
Is this a legislative function?
What role can the judiciary play constitutionally?
What role should the judiciary play?
Joint role with legislature?
Exclusive within established parameters or
What “separation of powers” and “public perception” issues are raised by the judiciary’s involvement in establishing fees?
How can these be addressed / ameliorated?
FACTORS TO CONSIDER IN ESTABLISHING
USER FEE STRUCTURE
Fees should be uniform.
Fees should be rationally related to the cost of providing the procedure or service involved.
Fees should be subject to periodic review and adjustment.
To what extent should the amount of fees vary according to:
Parties’ ability to pay (by objective criteria);
Nature of the parties (private, commercial,);
Nature of dispute.
Rationale nexus to procedure or service for which charged.
Fixed / flat (non-discretionary).
Discretionary fees involve administrative time and
CONSIDERATIONS RE DISTRIBUTION OF USER FEE REVENUES
Where is fee initially deposited (upon payment)?
To which fund or entity are fees subsequently transmitted?
For what purposes may fees be used?
Court funding and other purposes?
What body determines how funds will be expended?
King County Bar Report
Judge Fleck briefly explained some of the findings in the report issued by the King County Bar Association.
The work group discussed the option of user fees. The following points/questions were made during that discussion:
It was suggested that those wanting to recommend user fees should draft a proposal. These proposals are to be circulated to the work group in advance of the next meeting. The members were asked to review and decide how they would vote on each proposed by the July 31 meeting.
Kirk reminded the members that the goal is to have a preliminary recommendation prepared for the full task force meeting in September. He continued, a recommendation will not be made that does not accurately reflect the feeling of the work group.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.
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