Washington, DC (May 1, 2012) – The League of Women Voters today raised serious concerns about the funding crisis that faces our nation’s judicial systems.  May 1 is Law Day and what better occasion to highlight the serious consequences of an underfunded justice system for our country.

“While these are difficult economic times, the failure to fund the justice system is deleterious to American democracy,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, national President of the League of Women Voters.  “The justice system is essential to an effective, sustainable democracy and it must be well funded in order to ensure public trust.”

“Underfunded courts fail to fulfill the promise of the Constitution that every citizen has the right to his or her day in court.” MacNamara said.  “Public trust in government has been battered, and handicapping our democracy by underfunding the judicial system adds to that mistrust.”

According to the League, public trust and support for the courts is eroded by the most egregious effects of underfunding the judiciary: decreasing court services and thereby delaying judicial proceedings. 

One means to address the problem, said MacNamara, is that “we should give courts as much control over their own budgets as possible.” “Budgetary control coupled with better communication between courts and state and local budget offices will go a long way in helping to alleviate this problem.”

The League also believes that developing and sharing best practices in court funding models as well as determining national assessment standards for court administrators will help increase transparency and effective budgeting practices.  “Finally, in states where there is no legislative mandate,” said MacNamara, “lawmakers should consider introducing legislation that sets a percentage of the state budget for the judiciary.”

“It is understandable during tight economies to cut back wherever possible, but underfunding justice is a risk we simply should not be willing to take,” concluded MacNamara.

CONTACT:  Kelly Ceballos, kceballos@lwv.org