Monday, April 16, 2012

Money and justice

In welcome news, Judge Primeaux reports that the judicial pay-raise bill, which raises some filing fees to fund long-overdue salary increases for the state judiciary, has been signed into law. Yay!

You get what you pay for, and what you don't pay for, you don't get—as Justice Dickinson is reminding folks in Washington:
Mississippi Supreme Court Presiding Justice Jess H. Dickinson will participate in the White House Forum on the State of Civil Legal Assistance at 1 p.m. Tuesday, April 17, at the White House. * * *

The forum will focus on access to civil justice, benefits of legal aid for the judicial system and the effect on courts when they risk being overwhelmed with unrepresented litigants.

Justice Dickinson said, “I view this as an incredible opportunity to provide information to people who make decisions about funding this critical program. I hope that it will help the President and Congress formulate reasonable budget priorities.”

Funding for the Legal Services Corporation has been cut in recent years. Legal Services Corporation funding in Mississippi is currently $4.7 million. The state’s two Legal Services organizations currently have 21 attorneys, and have cut back staff and closed offices. In 1985, there were 259 lawyers working for Legal Services offices in Mississippi, with a $6.8 million budget.

“We are going backwards,” Justice Dickinson said. * * *

“The primary message that I hope to get across is that the principle of access to justice and fairness in the courts is not at the same level as other spending priorities,” Justice Dickinson said. “The right to fairness in our courts is not only a basic, fundamental, Constitutional right of every citizen, but it is one of the government’s absolute obligations.”
I am guessing those dollar figures aren't adjusted for inflation. $6.8M in 1985 equates to $14.5M in 2012, which would mean today's budget in real terms is one-third what it was back in the heyday of the Reagan years.

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