Budget cuts, slower courts?

August 13, 2008
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It’s budget season in Indiana, and counties across the state are preparing their 2009 budgets. The tough economic times are leading counties to ask departments to find even more ways to cut spending.

The courts, too, are being asked to find ways to reduce spending. Lake County courts may be asked to cut 10 to 20 percent from its budget – an across-the-board recommendation from the Lake County Council for all government departments. After initial cuts, Carroll County judges questioned its county council’s request that they reduce their budgets even further and go back to budgets from 2003. They reached an agreement with the council in June regarding their budget.

Cutting courts’ budgets is an issue counties are facing statewide. While it’s reasonable to expect every department to find ways to trim spending, how far is too far? When the ability to properly function is compromised as a result of reduced staff, it may be time to re-evaluate the budget. When courts are forced to cut support services or add or increase fees, it affects how the court operates. If courts are unable to keep up with the increasing caseloads, it will lead to an even greater backlog of cases waiting to be heard. Defendants will sit in jail longer, leading to possible overcrowding and potential lawsuits (which will take even longer to hear because of the backlog.)

Should courts be subject to the same percentage of budget cuts being asked of other departments or should county councils make exceptions for the courts? How can courts that have no other choice but to drastically reduce spending cope?
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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

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