Posted Mar 18, 2011 05:27 pm CDT
Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea, painting a dire portrait of how inadequate funding is adversely affecting the state’s judicial system, warned against more budget cuts.
It is estimated state courts need 20 more judges and 270 staffers, Gildea said, the Princeton-Union Eagle reports. Gildea also described situations wherein budget cuts rendered state courts unable to fulfill their duties. According to the paper, Gildea recalls how the Minnesota Court of Appeals, in recent months, reversed felony convictions for violent crimes in three separate cases because the court was incapable of providing speedy hearings.
In some instances, when the seemingly glaring solutions to problems stemming from budget cuts aren’t really solutions at all, Minnesota courts have their hands tied. For example, in Olmsted County, where court congestion is causing scheduling woes, sending in another judge won’t fix the problem, according to the Princeton-Union Eagle. That’s because budget cuts have also restricted the availability of public defenders.
But keeping in mind the state’s $5 billion budget deficit, Gildea, along with the Minnesota Judicial Council, voiced a practical view on the funding situation, the paper reports. Instead of asking for additional funding, the council adopted a “hold harmless” stance, which essentially asks lawmakers not to impose further budget cuts on the state’s judicial system.
For now, the council is expecting its position will be successful. When discussing state budget cuts, House Speaker Kurt Zellers said, “We’ll hold the judiciary harmless.”