Although we have reported in this blog the reductions already made to the court budgets (approximately $90,000), that has not been our primary focus. We want the public to understand that the additional demands made by the county council will cripple the courts. We believe our most recent assessment of the situation makes this clear.
Since posting the entry regarding contingency plans and making the video presentation below, we have made a more detailed calculation to determine the impact of the most recent cuts. Cases are scheduled several weeks and sometimes several months in advance. When the final budget was determined by the council in early May, the court calendars were already full through the month of June. The current staffing will be necessary for the scheduled cases, and it will not be possible to reduce staff of the courts prior to July 1, 2008.
To achieve the additional $20,000 reduction demanded of the Circuit Court, Judge Currie will have to do without his deputy court reporter during the final 26 weeks of 2008 and will have a bailiff for approximately 8 weeks of the 26 weeks. Allowing for vacation time already earned, the Circuit Court will only have one employee to do the work of three during the second half of 2008. There will be several weeks when he will not have a court reporter. (The current staff of the Circuit Court consists of a court reporter, deputy court reporter, and bailiff.)
To achieve the additional $20,000 reduction demanded of the Superior Court, Judge Smith will have to do without deputy court reporter, the part-time reporter, and will have to reduce the number of weeks that his court reporter will work during the second half of 2008. There will be several weeks when Judge Smith will only have one employee to do the work of three and one-half employees as well as times without a court reporter. (The current staff of the Superior Court consists of a court reporter, deputy court reporter, part-time court reporter, and a bailiff.)
With the required reductions in staffing, it will be not be possible for the court to conduct business as usual. A court reporter is necessary to have hearings in court. Sometime there will be no court reporter. The courts will be on life support for six months.
The courts, as instructed, have operated on the 2007 budget since January 2008. Due to the delay by the council in reaching a final budget, the additional cuts must be made over a six month period instead of a full year. The effect is to double the impact of the cuts. The elimination of a staff person at mid-year only reduces the annual budget by one-half of that person’s salary because the other half has already been paid to her.