Chief Justice seeks county court funding

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Chief Justice Chuck Malone is pushing state lawmakers to increase the budget for county court clerks in the next fiscal year.  A spokeswoman for Malone's election campaign, Angi Smith, told WSFA 12 News the Chief Justice wants to increase the funding for that part of the budget to $18 million.  That figure would not only help the system avoid additional layoffs, but also increase staffing to adequate levels.  Smith said if funding is kept the same or reduced, additional layoffs are likely.

County courts across the state have been dealing with impact of layoffs last year.  More than 250 employees lost their jobs.  That has led to backlogs and delays for people both inside and outside the courtroom. For instance, Montgomery County Circuit Court lost 12 employees, so 23 people are now doing the work of 35 people.

"I think we have done a good job of serving the public, our problem is processing the volume of paperwork that comes into this office every day," said Florence Cauthen, the Circuit Court Clerk for Montgomery County.  "Everything gets slowed down and that's not allowing justice to be served as it should be."

Smith said that county courts are operating at 30-50% percent of the employees they need to handle their workload.  But Smith said if funding is reduced, Malone would work with the funding the Legislature provides.  Malone is running for a full term as Chief Justice in the March Primary.  His Republican Primary opponents are Former Attorney General Charlie Graddick and Former Chief Justice Roy Moore.

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