Fewer courthouses, delays in getting cases heard and larger workloads for staff are the likely results of cutting the budget for Maine state courts by 10 percent, said Chief Justice Leigh Saufley. “It's going to dramatically reduce people's ability to get into the courthouse,” she told the Capitol News Service. The court budget of $135.4 million would lose $13.5 million if Gov. John Baldacci's request holds. Saufley had hoped for a $10 million increase for the coming fiscal year.
Just over half the requests for additional funds were for the constitutionally required expenditures, $2.9 million for debt service on the new Bangor court facility and an additional $1.8 million for indigent legal defense costs. “There is increased crime, and you can't prosecute low income people who can't afford an attorney without paying for constitutionally required counsel,” Saufley said. But the governor said government, including courts, must change to meet the challenges of the economy.