Normally, I would write about the court system in another section, but this message is too important not to be on page one. If Alabama’s state court system loses 15 percent of its appropriation from the General Fund Budget, a measure that is currently on the table in the Alabama Legislature, it would be unable to carry out its constitutional duties and responsibilities. This is the opinion of Rich Hobson, the Administrative Director of Courts, and I totally agree with him. I have also talked to a number of judges who share Rich’s concern. Additionally, I am told that all of the circuit clerks are greatly concerned over what will happen to their offices.
A budget cut of this severity would badly hurt the state courts, which are already badly underfunded. The system is understaffed by more than 400 employees. The cuts would mean an additional 530 layoffs, which would have to come from among the Unified Judicial System’s 1,404 regular employees. This would jeopardize its 578 officials.
A 15 percent budget cut comes to $13.9 million. Simply put – the system needs more money. It cannot afford to lose more funding. The courts have $3.6 million in new expenses that have to be paid in order to fund judges’ and employees’ retirement plans and employee health insurance. There also is $6.3 million in expenditures in the current budget that are funded by revenue sources that will not be available next year. Those dollars will have to be made up.
Alabama’s Unified Judicial System is one of the oldest in the nation. It is inconceivable that the system should be allowed to fail. The state and its people will suffer if they lose access to justice. If you believe the court system is important for the people of Alabama, contact your legislators and ask them to support full funding for the courts.
Sources: AL.com, judicial.alabama.gov
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