Illinois State Bar Association Board of Governors Votes to Accept Report on Court Underfunding
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An Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) special committee has issued a 64-page report that addresses the serious funding crisis facing Illinois courts.
“The long-term goal should be more than just alleviating the funding crisis,” said ISBA President John E. Thies, of Urbana. “Restoring courts to their proper place as a co-equal branch of government will return to the citizens of Illinois far more than the amount invested.”
In June 2012, Thies appointed a Special Committee on Fair and Impartial Courts, co-chaired by Illinois Circuit Judge Patricia P. Golden (Ret.), of West Dundee, and Illinois Appellate Court Justice James M. Wexstten, of Mt. Vernon. Their report and recommendations, which were accepted on Friday, May 17, at a meeting of the ISBA Board of Governors in Galena, will be voted on by the ISBA’s policy-making Assembly when it convenes on June 22.
According to the report, “The ability of the courts to deliver fair, timely and professional service has been degraded over the last dozen years by three trends: unpredictable budgets, cuts in real allocations, and disproportionate cuts. Funding cuts have affected all aspects of the judicial process.”
To identify the areas of special concern, the committee surveyed the chief judges of each judicial district in Illinois, as well as practicing lawyers. They then identified several problem areas and made recommendations that include the following:
- Education. Judges and lawyers need to participate in a concerted effort to educate their constituencies about the role courts play in society, providing concrete examples of why adequate funding of the court system is critical to the public welfare.
- Monitoring. Judges and lawyers need to monitor the problem areas identified in the report and sound the alarm when the courts’ core functions are in danger. This will assist the stakeholders in addressing the most crucial needs first.
- Working smarter. The manner in which our courts function can always be improved, such as streamlining processes. Advances in technology must be embraced, implemented and kept up to date.
- Reverse the funding trends. Immediate, practical steps must be taken by the legislature to stop the erosion of funding for the judicial branch. More predictable budgets, an increase in dollar funding, and more equitable treatment of courts in the budget process are essential to prevent a deepening of the problems facing the justice system.
“Our special committee has not claimed that the current court system cannot do its job, but the breaking point is near,” Thies stated. “What must happen is a sustained commitment to reverse the reduction in court funding, thereby ensuring that courts continue to provide their constitutionally-mandated services to the people of Illinois.”
The 32,000-member ISBA (isba.org), with offices in Springfield and Chicago, provides professional services to Illinois lawyers, and education and services to the public through a website (illinoislawyerfinder.com), consumer brochures, and distribution of legal information.
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NOTE: “Report on the Funding Crisis in the Illinois Courts” is available at http://www.isba.org/committees/fairandimpartialcourts
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