The American Bar Association Task Force on Preservation of the Justice System held the first of several nationally scheduled public hearings at the ABA Midyear Meeting in Atlanta. Witnesses addressed the nationwide court funding crisis and the courts' struggle to meet its constitutional mandate of providing access to justice.
Georgia is among many states struggling with a court funding crisis: the state's judiciary received a 6 percent budget cut in fiscal year 2011, on the heels of cuts slashing more than 14 percent of the budget two years earlier; from 2008 to 2010, the caseload has ballooned 10 percent, totaling more than one million filings a year; Gwinnett County's prosecutor was asked to cut costs by not trying criminal cases for five weeks - nearly 10 percent of the calendar year; court slowdowns are leading to months of waiting for event urgent and relatively simple matters, such as child support and custody hearings; statistics at the end of 2010 showed a sharp spike in magistrate court cases after state court fees were raised dramatically; and the 2009 state judiciary budget was a mere 0.8 percent of the state budget.
This task force, co-chaired by David Boies and Ted Olson of Boies Schiller & Flexner, was the first of its kind to take on the problems associated with the state court funding crisis.
Among the speakers were ABA President Stephen N. Zack; State Supreme Court Chief Justices Carol W. Hunstein (GA), Wallace B. Jefferson (TX), Paul J. De Muniz (OR) and John T. Broderick (NH, ret.); and Tracey Adkinson, president of the Georgia League of Women Voters.