Court Funding Woes Persist; N.H., Ore. Improving

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New Hampshire and Oregon are restoring funds to court systems that had to slow case processing because of budget cuts, the Christian Science Monitor reports. New Hampshire halted jury trials this summer. Cases piled up, and some victims had second thoughts about testifying after long delays. In Oregon, property crimes like shoplifting and arson went unpunished for four months.

In the past two years, the Monitor says, state courts have been forced to swallow some of the deepest budget cuts in decades. There have been layoffs of everyone from prosecutors to court interpreters, higher filing fees, and less money for public defenders.

In Oregon, “When people actually saw criminals go free, that caused quite a ripple in the public,” says Charlie Williamson, state bar association president. “People felt the courts were crippled.”

The prospect of a similar crisis helped New Hampshire judges and legislators reach a budget compromise. Judges got the flexibility to find other ways to save money besides eliminating staff and jury trials.

In some other places, the situation is getting worse. Jurors in Portage County, Ohio, are being asked to give up a $15-per-day stipend to save $10,000 next year. Alabama is laying off dozens of prosecutors and postponing jury trials after voters rejected a referendum on higher taxes.


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