Judicial Branch, State of New Hampshire
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JUDICIAL BRANCH TO BEGIN UNPAID FURLOUGHS
SYSTEM-WIDE IMPLEMENTATION WOULD CLOSE COURTS
CONCORD, January 26, 2010 ---The New Hampshire Judicial Branch announced a furlough plan today that will begin in late March or early April for non-judicial personnel not in a collective bargaining unit and for court security officers. System-wide implementation of the plan is contingent on the outcome of negotiations now underway between the Judicial Branch and the State Employees' Association, which represents more than 300 Judicial Branch employees. Negotiations are scheduled to resume Thursday, January 28.
In a letter to Gov. John Lynch today, Chief Justice John T. Broderick Jr. said he and the Judicial Branch Administrative Council believe the furlough plan is the "fairest course" to take to meet $3.1 million in spending reductions required by June 30, 2011. Chief Justice Broderick said he hoped that the outcome of negotiations would allow the furlough program to be carried out system-wide, to avoid layoffs. On system-wide furlough days, all New Hampshire courts and administrative offices will be closed.
"In moving forward with the furlough plan, we recognize that the Judicial Branch is not exempt from taking on its share of difficult decisions that have to be made during tough economic times. We take this action very reluctantly, however, knowing the regrettable impact furloughs and court closures will have on access to justice and on our ability to serve the citizens of New Hampshire," the Chief Justice said.
A memo to all judges, marital masters and staff, announcing the plan, was posted on the Judicial Branch website today.
"As judges, and court administrators, nothing is more difficult for us than the prospect of having to close the courthouse doors. This decision saddens all of us, but it is one we believe we cannot avoid," the Chief Justice and Administrative Council said in the memo. "We expect furloughs will be temporary in these lean times and will not become a permanent fixture in addressing budget shortfalls," the memo said.
The full Supreme Court, Superior Court Chief Justice Robert J. Lynn, and Administrative Judges Edwin W. Kelly of the District Court and Family Division and David D. King of the Probate Court have agreed to take unpaid furlough days. At a meeting in Concord last Friday, all trial judges in New Hampshire were asked to participate in the furlough plan. "The participation of judges and marital masters in this plan is critical to helping us meet the $3.1 million required reduction through the least number of furlough days," Chief Justice Broderick said in his letter.
Since that meeting, the Chief Justice told the Governor, judges and marital masters have overwhelmingly agreed to support unpaid voluntary furlough days "which reflects both their commitment to the institution and their loyalty to the dedicated staff they work with everyday."
The total number of furlough days needed to generate $3.1 million in spending reductions over the biennium depends on a number of outstanding factors. In the memo to judges, marital masters and staff, the Chief Justice and Administrative Council estimated three unpaid furlough days would be scheduled before June 30, 2010 with the potential for significantly more in FY 11.
"While Judicial Branch furloughs are unprecedented, given the serious economic issues confronting the state, we believe the Judicial Branch, including all judges and marital masters, must do all it can to assist state government in meeting its current budget realities," the Chief Justice said in the letter to Governor Lynch.
Fast Facts about the Judicial Branch judges, marital masters and staff were posted today.