By February, the red-brick Rockingham County Courthouse, one of New Hampshire’s busiest, will halt jury trials, as will courts in the rest of the state, reports the Los Angeles Times. “It brings our system almost to a screeching halt,” said county prosecutor James Reams, who is scrambling to reschedule 77 criminal trials that were on the February docket. “All the effort to subpoena witnesses and prepare for those trials is right out the window,” he said. “Internally, it’s a monumental waste of time. We’ll have to redo everything.”
The economic storm has come to this: Justice is being delayed or disrupted in state courtrooms across the country. At least 19 other states have slashed court budgets and other government services as their economies have tanked, said Daniel Hall of the National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, Va. California cut its judicial branch budget by more than $200 million, or about 10 percent, in the current fiscal year, and further reductions are almost certain as the state grapples with a projected $40-billion deficit. John Broderick, New Hampshire chief justice, has carved $2.7 million from the judicial budget. In addition to the one-month halt in jury trials and trimming back courtroom security, seven of the state’s 59 judgeships will be left vacant through June, when the fiscal year ends. Broderick may need to suspend jury trials for another month.