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Justice in Jeopardy: Furloughs and Budget Cuts Negatively Impacting State Court System

Posted on Jan 5, 2011 in Featured News

The Hawaii State Judiciary’s “Justice in Jeopardy” report details the impacts that furloughs and budget cuts have had on court users and the general public.

“These reductions have had substantial negative effects throughout the judicial system, by reducing, delaying and in some cases eliminating important services. Notably, Hawaii’s families and most vulnerable citizens have been significantly impacted,” said Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald.

The time it takes to process an uncontested divorce has doubled, and the wait time for children to participate in the Judiciary’s Kids First program in Kapolei, which seeks to alleviate the impacts of divorce by having children participate in a group counseling session, has more than doubled.

The Judiciary is concerned about the loss of 24 adult probation positions eliminated in the First Circuit, including positions in high risk areas such as the sex offender unit and the domestic violence unit. With individual probation officers supervising as many as 180 defendants (well above the nationally recommended ratio), there is an increased risk that probationers may violate the terms of their probation or commit serious crimes that endanger the community.

Rapidly growing civil caseloads and resulting delays in resolving such cases is also an issue. Since the budget cuts and furloughs, the median age of pending Circuit Court civil cases has increased by more than 40 percent.

In the last two years, the Judiciary’s state general fund appropriation has been reduced by $19.7 million or 13.1 percent of its overall budget. Furloughs alone have eliminated over 600,000 available staff hours of work.

 “Adequately funding the state court system is an investment in justice, and an investment in our democracy that should not be compromised even during tough economic times,” said Recktenwald.