JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT CONCERNING FUNDING FOR THE JUDICIAL BRANCH.
SPONSORS OF BILL:
REASONS FOR BILL:
The Executive Branch reduced the Judicial Branch's other expense expenditures at the same time the Legislature mandated certain initiatives. The Judicial Branch argues that it cannot perform certain core functions of the branch with reduced funds.
This bill exempts the Judicial Branch from a requirement to reduce its other expenses account to the fiscal year 2007 level, and revise the process with respect to recommended appropriations for, and the reduction of allotment requisitions by, the Judicial Branch.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Robert L. Genuario, Office of Policy and Management opposes this bill because it will not help remedy the State's budgetary woes. His principal opposition stems from his belief that this bill will put the Judicial Branch not on an even playing field with the other branches of government, but ahead of them. That is, he believes the Executive Branch should retain its current power to recommend changes to the budget submitted by the Judiciary before the General Assembly sees the budget. He finds that no agency or branch should be exempted from the budgetary process to which all others are subject.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
American Association of Law Libraries supports this bill because it allows the Judicial Branch to transmit its annual budget directly to the General Assembly and restores funding to law libraries which would otherwise close later this year. AALL submitted petitions signed by over 1100 Connecticut residents in support of a bill that would keep the law libraries open.
Carmen L. Rivera supports this bill because CT Legal Aid has helped her and her mother to avoid eviction and more generally, provides invaluable legal services for low income people.
Judge Barbara M. Quinn, Chief Court Administrator supports this bill because it remedies the fiscal problems which Connecticut courts will face during the current fiscal year and into the future. First, this bill allows the General Assembly to see the budget submitted by the Judicial Branch; currently, the General Assembly only sees a version “cut and reshaped” by the Executive Branch. Second, this bill requires the concurrence of the Appropriations Committee before any cuts in the Judiciary's budget may occur. Last, Judge Quinn testified that the Judiciary needs this bill to provide requisite funding to properly manage the programs which the General Assembly has asked of it (particularly Family Support Centers, Raise the Age, the CT Bar Foundation, CT Legal Services, and Children in Placement).
Lee Ann Gomes, City of Norwich Human Services supports this bill because it maintains funding for CT Legal Services. She cites several examples of how Legal Services protected the rights of Norwich citizens and explains that without Legal Services, the State and its municipalities would have to provide more services (and hence, would have to spend more).
Francis J. Brady, President, CT Bar Association supports this bill because it keeps courthouses open, saves law libraries, and maintains funding for CT Legal Services. He explains that cutting or reducing funding in this area will actually lead to greater costs for the State. Moreover, Mr. Brady explained that this bill allows the Judiciary to submit its budget as a co-equal branch of government, rather than as “an executive agency.”
Linda Blozie, CT Coalition Against Domestic Violence supports this bill because without the funding this bill provides, the Judiciary would not be able to adequately respond to victims of domestic violence. Last year alone, almost 40,000 individuals received services from domestic violence advocates based in criminal courts. She estimates that without this bill, at least 25% of the citizens they serve would be left without help.
Abigail Anderson, CT Juvenile Justice Alliance supports this bill because it provides funding which is critical for the continuing effectiveness of the juvenile justice system and for the children and families of the State.
Christopher Montes, CT Youth Services Association supports this bill because it provides funding to allow the Judiciary to adequately manage the juvenile justice system and the CT Juvenile Courts to properly operate.
Emerito Pena supports this bill because of the services New Haven Legal Aid provided him, as he otherwise could not afford legal assistance and would have been evicted.
Suzy Rivera, Friendship Service Center supports this bill because it allows the Judiciary to provide funding to Legal Aid. Her organization provides services for low income and homeless individuals. She testified that without Legal Aid, homelessness would increase and the population they already serve would have reduces access to the judicial system.
Rosa Lopez supports this bill because of the service which Greater Hartford Legal Aid provided her during her divorce proceedings.
Scott Jelescheff, International Brotherhood of Police Officers supports this bill because without it, there would be insufficient funding for judicial marshals in the state courts. An insufficient number of marshals would compromise the safety of the general population.
Keva Peterson supports this bill because of the support New Haven Legal Assistance provided her during her divorce. Her husband sexually abused her daughter, but without NHLA's help, he would have received custody of their children.
Betsy Morgan, Middlesex Coalition for Children supports this bill because the funding this bill provides allows the Judiciary to adequately provide services to children and their families. Specifically, the Family Support Centers currently do not receive adequate funding.
Rep. Susan M. Johnson, 49th supports this bill because it allows state courthouses which would otherwise be closed to remain open. Specifically, Judge Quinn has recommended closure of the courthouse in Willimantic, in Rep. Johnson's district. This closure would require residents of Willimantic to travel approximately 45 minutes to the nearest courthouse, in Putnam.
Terri Drew, City of Stamford Youth Services Bureau supports this bill because without the exemption from the budget process it enables, the Judiciary will not be able to provide the Family Support Centers which the legislature has mandated. She continues to describe the benefits of these Support Centers as well as the problems which they seek to remedy.
Giacomo “Jack” Guarnaccia, Windham County Bar Association supports this bill because it will prevent the closure of the Courthouse for Juvenile Matters in Willimantic. He describes this area of the State as one of the poorest and least accessible by public transportation. He explains the substantial hardships closure of this courthouse would cause for the citizens who would otherwise use this courthouse.
Carmelina Carta supports this bill because of the services that New Haven Legal Assistance provided her. Without Legal Aid, she would have been able to afford legal services.
Martha Stone and Preston Britner, Center for Children's Advocacy support this bill because of the funding it serves to protect. First, they argue that expansion of Family Support Centers will save money. Second, failure to provide youth services in some parts of the State creates unequal access and may violate the law. Last, this bill fulfills the mandate of prior legislative programs, chiefly the Family Support Centers.
Angelo Callis, City of Norwich Family Therapist supports this bill because it ensures funding to permit the Judiciary to provide Family Support Centers. Without these Centers, delinquency and costs for the State will increase.
Brian Anderson, Council 4 AFSCME supports this bill because it prevents the closure of courthouse, ensures funding for the employment of judicial marshals, and stabilizes funding for the juvenile justice system.
Hugh MacGill, CT Bar Foundation supports this bill because it restores needed funding to the Judiciary. Furthermore, the bill ensures funding for Legal Aid programs.
Marshall Collins, CT Coalition of Property Owners supports this bill, with amendment. He supports providing sufficient funding for the Judicial Branch. He requests, however, that the General Assembly amend the bill to transfer housing related small claims out of centralized filing and back to Housing Court, which he explains is not backlogged and has adequate resources.
Thomas D. Goldberg, CT Legal Services supports this bill because it preserves the funding allocated by the General Assembly last term for the Judicial Branch; specifically, he supports the money allocated to legal aid. In addition, he requests that funding be placed in a separate line, not the “Other Expenses” line, to insure funding for legal aid.
Judge Dennis O'Brien supports this bill because it prevents the closure of the Juvenile Court in Willimantic and the Courthouse and law library for Windham County. In addition, he supports the bill because of the funding it provides for legal aid.
Kathleen Hunter, Fairfield '08 supports this bill because it ensures funding for CT Legal Aid, a service which she explains is necessary to help the State's low income population, particularly during these difficult economic times.
Edward F. Czepiga, II, Greater Bridgeport Bar Association supports this bill because it prevents closure of the law library in Bridgeport. He describes the problems which would result if the State closed the law library, including reduced access to legal materials and increased need for public transportation to other law libraries in the State.
Gregory J. Cava supports this bill because it prevents the closure of several law libraries throughout the State. He is an attorney who has a solo practice. He described his need for the law libraries as they provide valuable and costly legal materials for attorneys in solo practices.
Katherine Webster-O'Keefe, Litchfield County Bar Association supports this bill because it prevents the closure of law libraries throughout the State. She details the difficulties which attorneys in Litchfield County would face should the only law library in the Judicial District be closed.
Barbara Lockhart, Montville Youth Service Bureau supports this bill because it ensures funding for the Judicial Branch to properly administer the Family Support Centers. Currently several proposed Centers do not operate due to a lack of funding.
Jonathan C. Stock, Southern New England Law Librarians Association supports this bill because it prevents the closure of several law libraries and courthouses throughout the State. In particular, he details the problems which the proposed closing of law libraries would present.
Joan I. Farcus supports this bill because it provides adequate funding to the Judiciary, presents the closing of several law libraries and courthouses, and provides funding for legal aid services.
Robert Madore and Beverley Brakeman, UAW Region 9A supports this bill, but encourages the General Assembly to shift existing legal aid funding into a separate line outside of “Other Expenses.” They testified as to the importance of legal aid programs.
Petitions in support of this bill because it prevents closure of several law libraries throughout the State were submitted by: (1) the Hartford Superior Court; (2) the Bridgeport Superior Court; (3) the Milford Superior Court; (4) the Litchfield Superior Court; and (5) the Norwich Superior Court.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Reported by: Stephen Teti