IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES WORK GROUP
Two Union Square – Seattle, Washington
May 16, 2003
Members in attendance: Wayne Blair, Mary McQueen, John Cary, Judge Stephen Dwyer, Judge Deborah Fleck, John Alexander, Matt Anderson, Judge Godfrey, Senator Stephen Johnson, Councilmember Kathy Lambert, Judge James Murphy, Michele Radosevich, Judge Chip Small, Judge Mary Yu, Jeff Hall, Ramsey Radwan
Guest Speaker: Glenn Olson
Guests: Judge Leonard Costello, Sharon Blackford (Problem Definition Work Group)
Scribe: Jan Nutting
Court Funding Task Force Overview
The present effort to address court funding challenges began in March of 2002. Judge Fleck (**Judge Fleck, was another judge involved in this?) invited Superior Court Judges’ Association representatives and attorneys to form a group which would begin the process of long-range planning for stable trial court funding. The results of past court funding studies and the practices of other states were considered. Finally, the group made a commitment to find and implement a solution to the lack of funding.
A Board of Judicial Administration (BJA) resolution authorized the formation of a task force to seek adequate long-term funding for the trial courts. Wayne Blair was asked to serve as chair.
The Court Funding Task Force is a broad based group of thirty-one individuals, selected to ensure that diverse ideas are brought to the table. The first two meetings, held in the fall of 2002, were educational meetings. The mechanics of funding were examined and five work groups were developed.
Each Work Group is comprised of 20 – 30 participants, including several Court Funding Task Force members.
Work Group Updates and Status Reports
Problem Definition Work Group:
This group has met six times, has heard from a number of guest speakers, and is in the process of developing an ‘onion chart’ which will clearly identify court funding responsibilities (draft attached).
A report detailing the importance of court funding is near completion. The group will determine the dollar amount spent for funding trial courts in the past and the amount that will be needed in the future. Several weeks of work remain before the group’s findings will be handed off to the Funding Alternatives Work Group.
Funding Alternatives Work Group
The Funding Alternatives Work Group has met four times. The first meetings were informational, including a number of presentations. The work group has developed a draft set of funding principles against which all suggested alternatives will be measured. At the most recent meeting, funding ideas were presented and those ideas are now being fleshed out.
Limited Jurisdiction Work Group
The goal of the committee is to examine the structure of courts of limited jurisdiction and consider the many factors involved, including interaction of municipal and district entities, mandatory arbitration, the termination of contracts by the King County Executive, and complicated political differences. This clarification of relationships will aid all court funding groups as they work to find solutions.
Public Education Work Group
The majority of this group’s work cannot be begun until results are received from other work groups. The members have met twice and have distributed a survey to all Court Funding Task Force members to develop a list of groups with which task force members are affiliated for future educational purposes.
Task Force Information
Status reports and updates, meeting schedules and notes, member contact information, and other Court Funding Task Force materials may be found at http://www.courts.wa.gov/programs_orgs/pos_bja/?fa=pos_bja.funding
The Court Funding Task Force will meet on May 22. On June 19 the work group co-chairs will meet with the Board for Judicial Administration and the Boards of the SCJA and DMCJA. Following that meeting, a retreat for the work group co-chairs has been scheduled to assess their progress and communicate questions and concerns.
The PSEA proposal now before the legislature will raise $12 - $16 million by increasing traffic fines. That amount would be sufficient to fund the entire local government portion of the superior court judges’ salaries and benefits... Even relatively small amounts could make a significant positive impact on local governments’ budgets. (Judge Dwyer)
The Court Funding Task Force will consider all options – every feasible possibility is being discussed. The group is eager to find new and innovative approaches to funding issues. (Judge Fleck)
Co-chairs of the various work groups will be asked to attend the next Implementation Strategies Work Group meeting and present the information gathered to date. With that knowledge, the Implementation Strategies Work Group can begin to formulate approaches for implementation.
The Funding Alternatives Work Group has looked at court funding solutions nationally. Washington State ranks 50th in the United States for the portion of trial court budget funded by the state. The Court Funding Task Force will determine a fair balance between state and local funding and identify new funding sources. (Mary McQueen)
Court Funding Presentation
Mr. Olson has based his presentation on Clark County’s information, but believes the situation is similar to that of other counties. His presentation explores, from the county perspective, the culture of budgeting and the need to change the counties’ funding base.
Budget changes are made incrementally. Because there are no new pieces for the court funding puzzle, the existing pieces must be rearranged.
Mr. Olson’s materials show county revenues by source, demonstrating the lack of non-restricted funding and illustrating the effects of I-747 and Referendum 47 on county income.
I will ask Glenn to send his presentation electronically so it can be attached to this document rather than reporting his speaking points.
Criminal Justice funds are distributed among many entities. Courts receive very little from this source. Non-supplanting language is needed to be sure courts receive a fair share. (Mary McQueen)
Faced with the need to spend more, the Senate recently chose to spend $20 million on prenatal care for non-documented women. It is an uphill battle to convince legislators to fund judges’ salaries over items such as prenatal care. (Senator Johnson)
It would be helpful to have a memo detailing actions that would benefit the counties. Mr. Olson agreed to write such a memo. (Matt Anderson)
Washington State Court Funding Overview
The present practice of increasing traffic ticket income to reach the necessary funding level creates a serious workload management issue. More traffic fines are contested, increasing the need for court time. (Judge Godfrey)
Automation appears to be the best way to make the most of the funds available.
Entities contributing to the fund are outnumbered by the entities taking funds away.
It is difficult for the courts to audit, collect, and distribute JIS funds. Judicial Education receives very little.
The original plan for PSEA has been diluted and court funding eroded with time – dollars are funneled to the executive branch and away from the judiciary.
Trial courts are not a drain on the state – of a state budget of $44 billion, the courts receive .5%.
A Blueprint for Implementation Strategies – Court Reform Overview
This presentation is adapted from State Courts: A Blueprint for the Future, a document written following the Second National Conference on the Judiciary in 1978. Despite its age, the report contains a great deal of useful information and insightful discussion.
The public is vaguely supportive, but not well-informed about or greatly interested in court reform.
The definition of court reform occasionally includes finance reform, but usually implies structural reorganization.
A shift in responsibility for superior court judges’ salaries would (possibly) require a constitutional amendment.
**The survey completed by the Public Legal Education Work Group will be located and distributed at the next meeting.
Change is most likely to be brought about by a small group of dedicated key legislators... In addition, the importance of the media in garnering support for court funding cannot be overstated.
It is vital for the Implementation Strategies Work Group to believe in and be behind the funding strategies chosen for implementation. Communication between groups will ensure that all agree on the strategies to be put forward.
This work group can be confident that the solutions brought forward by other groups will be sensible, and that the Implementation Strategies group will have a hand in shaping the ideas that they will later implement. (John Cary)
Overlapping involvement in work groups guarantees that groups are not isolated, but are working side by side and involved with the entire process. (Judge Fleck)
We were reminded that past studies have accomplished little, and that major change will be necessary to achieve the desired result. (Judge Godfrey)
Bringing technology to the courtrooms will bring about significant results. Citizens need to see the benefit in store for them before they will support a change. (Kathy Lambert)
It was suggested that the 2001 BJA study/Project 2001 draft report be reviewed. Some of the ideas presented then may be of interest now.
**Road Maps discussion postponed until June meeting. Work group members were asked to review the document before then.
**Discussion of principles was also postponed.
The next meeting of the Implementation Strategies Work Group has been scheduled for Friday, June 27, from noon or 1:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. The meeting will be held in the 55th Floor Conference Room at Two Union Square in Seattle. Meetings may be scheduled on a regular basis (for instance, on the last Friday afternoon of each month) or after the June meeting may be suspended for the remainder of the summer. Timing of future meetings will be discussed at the next meeting.
Co-chairs from the other work groups will be invited to attend and speak about the progress of their groups. This meeting will provide an opportunity for Implementation Strategies Work Group members to determine the direction of the other groups and provide feedback regarding feasibility and practicality of concepts presented. Work Group members will also be able to offer their ideas regarding – among other things - constitutional amendment, changes possible without constitutional amendment, authority available but not being used, room beneath the property tax cap, and the possibility of seeking to repeal the initiatives restricting funding.
**Notes from work group meetings are to be posted to the Internet site in draft form as soon as possible. It is important to disseminate information quickly. (Wayne Blair)
Documents distributed at the meeting include:
List….State Courts: A Blueprint for the Future
Funding the State Courts: Issues and Approaches
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