As Georgia’s schools, parks, and public health care face budget cuts next year, the state’s judicial branch is requesting a 29 percent increase in funding, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. About half of the increase would go to pay for Georgia’s new indigent defense system. The judicial spending recommendation was delivered a few months after Gov. Sonny Perdue accused the court branch of padding its requests and forced lawmakers into a special session over indigent defense system funding. Republican lawmakers who will control the Capitol come January aren’t happy about the request for a 29 percent increase. “Justice isn’t just blind, it’s deaf and dumb, too,” said Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson.
The court figures surprised lawmakers. “I would think they would have more sense than to ask for that kind of increase,” said Rep. Mack Crawford a member of the House Judiciary Committee. Rick Malone of the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia said district attorneys are asking for lawyers and staff to assist new prosecutors with capital cases. He said that the new indigent defense program has a large staff devoted to defending people accused of capital crimes. The state’s growing population brings more crime, but Malone said there haven’t been new prosecutors funded for five years. “If we furlough lawyers, the work doesn’t stop, the crime doesn’t stop,” he said. Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman S. Fletcher said judicial spending is less than 1 percent of the state’s budget. “We don’t truly have a lot of fat to cut,” he said.