The Baltimore Sun reports on the possible ramifications of mandatory furloughs on Maryland’s court system. The courts were open Friday, but more than 1,000 public defenders, assistant attorneys general and other state lawyers are off that day – making for what some court employees are saying could be a waste of a workday. It was the first of five planned state shutdowns that, together with additional days of unpaid leave, will save about $75 million. Gov. Martin O’Malley announced the furloughs for nearly all of the state’s 70,000 workers last week.
The executive branch furloughs cover state agencies, such as the Office of the Public Defender and the Maryland attorney general’s office. The legislature and judiciary branches are exempt from furloughs. Lawmakers have been asked by their leaders to voluntarily give back at least eight days of salary. Chief Judge Robert M. Bell decided to keep the courts open Friday “due to the late notice” of O’Malley’s announcement. “We’re just not like every other branch,” said Angelita Plemmer, a spokeswoman for the judiciary. Closing courts suddenly, Plemmer said, could result in trial delays that are considered unconstitutional and cause problems for people who had been planning to file lawsuits at the last possible moment before the statute of limitations expires.