Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is tightening the financial belt in the Judicial Department amid budget concerns, and the effect will be seen by the general public.
Thursday, Judge Moore sent an order to all the state's circuit clerks offices ordering them to close their doors to the public on Wednesdays. The order goes into effect on March 20, 2013.
Circuit clerks offices are responsible for numerous legal duties including maintainance of records involving court proceedings, as well dealing with public records, licenses and certificates. It also files papers on behalf of the courts.
Judge Moore, who presides over the administrative duties of the court, cites the "chronic and substantial lack of adequate funding of the Judicial Branch...[which has] resulted in myriad problems..." as the primary reason for the order.
[DOCUMENT: Chief Justice Roy Moore's order (.pdf)]
The Judiciary has also limped through a hiring freeze, suspension of merit raises since 2008, and says it has been unable to keep or replace key employees. The Alabama Judicial Branch has lost nearly 500 employees over the past decade.
Judge Moore's order states that while this year's budget was already expected to be reduced by $25 million, it "appears likely to generate approximately $13 million dollars less than anticipated for Fiscal Year 2013 and beyond..."
And the Court is bracing for more budget troubles including, "$3.5 million in mandated, yet unfunded, Fiscal Year 2014 costs," which will come primarily due to increases in employees' health care.
While the circuit clerk offices will be closed to the public, employees will continue to report to work as normal and will use the hours to address the required duties of the office.
Currently, Alabama's Court Clerks' offices are staffed at 50 percent of the levels the system says it needs in order to have effective operations.
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