Judicial Branch, State of New Hampshire
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SUPREME COURT ORDERS SHUT DOWN TO REDUCE SPENDING
CONCORD - The New Hampshire Supreme Court has ordered implementation of an involuntary furlough program beginning April 2 during which court buildings will be closed and employees will not be paid in order to reduce Judicial Branch spending.
All 78 courts at 40 locations throughout the state will be shut down on furlough days. Hearings and trials will be rescheduled and only emergency proceedings will be conducted. The program results in a reduction in compensation for judges, marital masters and non-judicial employees.
The justices noted that the furlough plan allows the court system to reduce expenditures "without laying off valued and experienced employees." At the same time, the court said, the plan will also "equitably allocate the consequences of budget reduction among all users of New Hampshire courts and among all judicial branch employees." Two court orders regarding the furlough plan were issued yesterday.
"As disruptive as the furloughs are on judges, masters and staff, ultimately, on days when the courthouse doors are locked, the citizens of New Hampshire will pay the highest price when it comes to access to justice," Chief John T. Broderick Jr. said in a statement today.
New Hampshire now joins 14 other states that have either implemented or planned for some form of furlough programs to cut court operating costs, according to the National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, Va.
The Judicial Branch initiated the furlough plan following a request from Gov. Lynch that the court system reduce expenditures by $3.1 million during the FY 10-FY 11 biennium. The courts will be closed and court employees will be on involuntary unpaid furlough on April 2, April 30 and May 28. If additional furlough days are necessary to meet the spending reduction, the court will issue other furlough orders at least four weeks in advance of the next furlough days. A list of potential furlough dates is listed in the order issued on court closings (Administrative Order 2010-01).
In that order, the Supreme Court today also directed all administrative judges to establish procedures to be used on furlough days in emergency situations "such as arraignment of incarcerated defendants, requests for domestic violence restraining orders and emergency placement of juveniles."
Court employees who are members of the State Employees' Association ratified a collective bargaining agreement last week that allows for system-wide furloughs. The Supreme Court had previously announced an unpaid furlough plan for employees not subject to collective bargaining agreements. Virtually all judges and all marital masters have agreed to voluntarily take the same number of unpaid furlough days as non-judicial staff.