Judicial Branch, State of New Hampshire
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JUDICIAL BRANCH ORDERS THREE MORE UNPAID FURLOUGH DAYS
Chief Justice says new budget cuts will "seriously impact" access to courts
CONCORD, June 8--The Supreme Court issued a third furlough order today directing that courthouses statewide be closed down and employees placed on unpaid leave for another three days because of reductions in the Judicial Branch budget. The order brings to 9 the total number of days since April that the New Hampshire courts have been shut down, except for emergency hearings. Judicial branch staff, all judges and marital masters are not paid on furlough days.
Lawmakers announced Monday that a final budget agreement, to be voted on tomorrow by the House and Senate, includes an additional $1 million cut in the Judicial Branch budget for FY 11. In a separate bill, previously approved by the House and Senate, the court system must increase per diem wages by $1.2 million in FY 11 for Judicial Branch security officers and deputy sheriffs who provide courthouse security. The legislature did not fund that additional expense, so, the two measures amount to a $2.2 million reduction. That is in addition to an earlier $3.1 million reduction in Judicial Branch spending over FY10-11 which is expected to require all employees, including judges and marital masters to take up to 14 unpaid furlough days through June 30, 2011.
Based on these recent developments, Chief Justice Broderick, with the support of the full Supreme Court and the Administrative Judges, today sent a letter to Gov. John Lynch asking him not to make any full time judicial appointments in FY 11 to allow more flexibility in achieving cost reductions. Currently, there are nine full time judicial vacancies. The Chief Justice is also scheduled to meet with county sheriffs Thursday at the Supreme Court to discuss the impact of the increase in court security costs and whether it will require a reduction in court sessions in some locations because of lack of funds to pay for security.
In his letter to Gov. Lynch, Chief Justice Broderick outlined the impact of the most recent $2.2 million in reductions which he said, if approved by the legislature tomorrow as expected, will "require adjustments that will seriously impact access to justice for our citizens."
In a related action, the legislature said that the leasing costs for four district court locations, Claremont, Colebrook, Milford and Keene, should be paid by the communities that use those facilities. The cost of security at those locations, about $80,000, must be paid by the Judicial Branch.
Last year, the Judicial Branch had agreed with a proposal from Gov. Lynch to close those four court locations to save on spending, but the legislature declined to do so.
In addition, because the Judicial Branch is holding a high number of positions vacant in order to reduce expenses, numerous court locations have elected to close to the public for a specified number of hours each week in order to provide limited staff uninterrupted time to process case orders and reduce backlog. During those partial closures, staff will not be available to answer the telephones and the clerks' offices will be closed. Scheduled trials, court hearings or alternative dispute resolution sessions will be conducted during hours of partial closure, and the public will have access to those hearings
Check the judicial branch website for an up to date list of schedules at individual court locations. http://www.courts.state.nh.us/courtclosings/hours.htm
All background documents on the Judicial Branch FY10-11 budget, are available on the Judicial Branch website.