Chief Justice: “Lurching” from budget to budget is not a plan

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January 20th, 2011

Nebraska's Chief Justice Michael Heavican said the courts are not just another "line-item" in the state's budget (Photo courtesy Nebraska Supreme Court)

Lincoln, NE – In an unusually strong speech to the State Legislature, the Chief Justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court asked that the budget for the courts be kept intact. In his annual, State of Judiciary address, Chief Justice Michael Heavican cautioned that judges, clerks and probation officers face considerable increases in their case loads even if funding is cut.

Nebraska's Chief Justice warned lawmakers Douglas County Juvenile Court could be overwhelmed by truancy cases

“The courts are not just another agency line-item in the State’s budget,” he said. “Issues that I have mentioned in this address, for example the continuing increase of self-represented parties in the courts, the continued use of interpreters in the courts, and most immediately the potential for huge increases in truancy cases in Douglas County, and elsewhere beg the question of adequate funding for the court system.”

Heavican reminded lawmakers that most of the costs to operate the courts are salaries for employees who don’t control the number of cases and trials appearing in courtrooms.

“Lurching from budget year to budget year, sustaining the court system by furloughing employees, is not a plan,” he said. “It is an admission of a failure to plan.”

Heavican emphasized that “courts perform the constitutionally mandated role of providing access to justice for all Nebraska citizens.”

The legislature’s Judiciary Committee earlier recommended cuts that including delaying hiring replacement judges and shifting the cost of County Courts back to county governments. Higher fees from some court services are also being proposed.

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