Jim Tenn, the President of the New Hampshire Bar Association sent the following letter to New Hampshire bar members today urging them to take action to help prevent further budget cuts to the judicial branch that would cripple the system. As a family law attorney who assists mothers, fathers and children in court everyday with critical issues such as support, domestic violence, and parenting time, I see no more room for cuts. A parent struggling to make the rent who needs child support will wait months more for that crucial court order. A victim of domestic violence may not be able to obtain a restraining order because the court will be closed on furloughs. A child who is waiting to be freed for adoption will linger in the foster care system longer. I urge everyone, whether lawyer or layperson, to call your legislator and make your voice heard about these devastating budget cuts.
Attorney Tenn's letter:
In a real surprise move earlier this week, the House Finance Committee made a series of budget decisions that include a disproportionate cut of $4.7 million in Judicial Branch funding for the fiscal year starting this summer.
The NH House of Representatives is likely to vote on an ADDITIONAL $47 MILLION in cuts to the state budget, including these additional, disabling justice system cuts – probably next Wednesday, March 24, 2010.
Impact: Court officials roughly estimate that this budget impact in one fiscal year, combined with reductions already absorbed by the justice system would require:
- layoffs of 90 employees throughout the courts, or
- 30 furlough days when courts will be closed.
Combined with positions already left vacant, this would deplete the judicial branch workforce of 600 by 23 percent.
The NHBA Board of Governors urges Bar members to
CALL YOUR LEGISLATORS NOW and PROTEST THESE DAMAGING CUTS.
CRITICAL POINTS TO ADDRESS:
These cuts disproportionately impact the justice system.
The Judicial Branch is the smallest of the three branches; it accounts for 1.5 percent of the state budget, and yet is being targeted for 10 percent of these cuts.
The justice system is fundamental to the operation of our government.
Because it is VITAL to our society, the system is MANDATED in our state Constitution. The justice system, widely dispersed so as to be ACCESSIBLE to all citizens in their communities, is part of the day-to-day working of our government. These cuts may deny access to: families seeking protection from violence; law enforcement keeping citizens safe from wrongdoers; and businesses throughout our state depending on orderly dispute resolution.
Further cuts will be devastating.
The justice system will soon be feeling the effects of the $3.1 million in cost reductions mandated last fall, resulting in unpaid employee furloughs and the closing of courts for 19 days through this year and the next.
ADDED ON TOP OF THAT WOULD BE $4.7 million in cuts. Massive layoffs will be required in the smallest branch of government. The system will suffer permanent harm.
Further court closure days will cause insurmountable backlogs, further inefficiencies, and real damage to the lives of people who depend on the justice system for timely resolutions.
Chief Justice Broderick’s March 8 letter to the Governor, written before this latest legislative action, details the current state of the courts. It contains useful factual information. http://www.courts.state.nh.us/budget/fy-10-11-budget/letterfromcj-03-08-2010.pdf
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Attorneys must act now to contact members of the House; these citizen-legislators need to hear from you; they need to know that these cuts willbreak down the justice system.
And they need to hear from younow. The full House is expected to act on the Finance Committee report containing these cuts NEXT WEEK. Because time is of the essence we urge you to CALL your New Hampshire House Representatives before Wednesday the 24th.
A phone call is PERSONAL and will enable you to communicate your concerns.
While legislators are faced with tough decisions, we must act now to preserve New Hampshire’s justice system.
Visit the House of Representatives Web page at www.gencourt.state.nh.us, select your district, get your representative’s phone number, and make the call today: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/members/wml.aspx
Jim Tenn, NHBA President