The fiscal year for Alabama begins October 1st, and with that deadline rapidly approaching, Alabama’s budget crisis continues to look grim. The budget cuts Alabama is facing will affect state parks, employment, healthcare, and the entire state judicial system. Without proper funding to Alabama courts, serious disruptions to the state’s legal system could follow.
(Before court funding goes into effect, be sure to have your necessary business contracts in place.)
Alabama Budget Cuts
After being reelected, Governor Bentley announced that the Alabama budget is suffering, stating that the General Fund for the new fiscal year could face a loss of up to $265 million. While severe, Alabama has seen this on the horizon for some time.
In addition to that massive deficit, much of Alabama’s borrowed money is due within the next few years. This money includes payments to the Federal government for Medicaid, prison improvements, and much more. The borrowed money amounts up to a potential $700 million debt.
What Are the Cuts the Courts Are Facing?
The Alabama court system already receives only 1.6 percent of the state’s general fund. Governor Bentley’s most recent proposal was a $17.8 million cut for Alabama courts. This would leave only $163 million to fund the Alabama state court system.
District attorneys and retired prosecutors have salaries that are protected by statute, therefore the funding will be cut from other aspects of the system. That means this 17% budget cut cannot be spread around, and will instead fall hard on particular services.
What Could Happen?
Without proper funding, the Alabama state courts cannot meet their basic constitutional requirements, such as the right of the accused to a speedy trial. With the backlogs that will inevitably result from cuts in court funding, defendants in Alabama could be waiting even longer for their day in court. The delay in trials and other court hearings will fill Alabama’s already overpopulated county jails far past capacity.
Slashing court funding would also prevent courts from paying jurors, and would also require many court circuits to cut the minimal staff that are currently employed by the court system. These job losses would only add to the suspension and delay of both civil and criminal cases in Alabama.
If we look back a few years, in 2012 Alabama cut funding to the courts by $17 million and over 300 jobs were lost. The same, or more, is to be expected in 2015. That is not only a blow to the Alabama’s judicial system, but to the employment rate as a whole.
These are among a few of the major problems the court system could face. The lack of proper funding could prevent access to justice for businesses and citizens alike.
It is up to each citizen of Alabama to reach out to their community and representatives to educate them on these matters. The Alabama State Bar has released a letter directed to bar members that further explains these conditions. Read it here.
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