CHICAGO, Nov. 12, 2003 – American Bar Association President Dennis W. Archer today announced the appointment of the ABA Commission on State Court Funding, chaired by Justice Joseph P. Nadeau of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, to examine problems arising from chronic under-funding of state judicial systems.
“If we deny basic funding for the courts, we endanger public safety and fail to provide a neutral forum for people to resolve disputes,” Archer said. “All branches of government have faced budget cuts during the current fiscal crisis, but as a society we have crossed the line when a lack of money means courthouse doors are closed and the administration of justice stops in our criminal and civil courts.”
The ABA commission will study innovative approaches to funding the courts and will make recommendations next year on how states can ensure that court systems have adequate resources to meet the caseload demand.
“All of us in the judiciary are working hard with our legislatures to balance economic realities with the needs of the courts,” Nadeau said. “We welcome the opportunity to develop new ideas to help states deal with this relentless challenge.
“Staff layoffs, postponement of jury trials, reduction in the hours courts are open to the public and cuts in funding for indigent defense mean we are unable to provide timely access to justice for our citizens. The well-being and security of our communities suffer when the courts are unable to serve the public effectively.”
The commission was created to make recommendations on budget-related issues identified in the report “Justice in Jeopardy,” a comprehensive report on the challenges facing state court systems. The project is supported with a grant from the Open Society Institute.
The commission includes judges and a cross section of people who represent various entities who are impacted by the court system. They are:
· Justice Mark D. Martin of the North Carolina Supreme Court, ABA Coalition for Justice;
· Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer of the Ohio Supreme Court, Conference of Chief Justices;
· Judge Elizabeth S. Stong of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of New York, ABA Section of Business Law;
· District Judge Debra H. Lehrmann of Ft. Worth, Texas, ABA Section of Family Law;
· Judge Arthur L. Burnett Sr., of the District of Columbia Superior Court, ABA Steering Committee on the Unmet Legal Needs of Children;
· Sarah Buel of the University of Texas School of Law, ABA Commission on Domestic Violence;
· Dwight L. Smith of Tulsa, Okla., ABA Section of General Practice, Solo and Small Firms;
· Susan A. Low, assistant city attorney, Des Moines, Iowa, ABA Section of Government and Private Sector Lawyers;
· Virginia Sloan of the Constitution Project, Washington, D.C., ABA Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities;
· Michael L. Buenger, state court administrator, Missouri Supreme Court, ABA Judicial Division;
· Paul T. Moxley of Salt Lake City, Utah, ABA Standing Committee on Judicial Independence;
· Donald Bivens of Phoenix, ABA Section of Litigation;
· James A. Noe Jr. of Mercer Island, Wash., ABA Senior Lawyers Division;
· James Baird of Chicago, ABA Section of State and Local Government Law;
· Richard Campbell of Boston, ABA Section of Tort Trial and Insurance Practice; and
· Paul T. Davis of Lawrence, Kan., ABA Young Lawyers Division.
Frances K. Zemans of Chicago serves as the commission reporter.
The American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership association in the world. With more than 400,000 members, the ABA provides law school accreditation, continuing legal education, information about the law, programs to assist lawyers and judges in their work, and initiatives to improve the legal system for the public.