OPINION: Chief Justice Roy Moore pens opinion piece on court funding

File Photo: Chief Justice Roy Moore
File Photo: Chief Justice Roy Moore
Graph provided by Chief Justice's office
Graph provided by Chief Justice's office

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is issuing the following opinion article in relation to funding for the state's court system. The piece is Justice Moore's opinion and is not edited by this station's staff.

It reads:

"In November 2012, I was returned to the office of Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.  After an absence of ten years, I was immediately shocked by the dire situation we face with the budget of the Unified Judicial System of this State.  We have lost 305 critical employees since 2001, and our budget from the General Fund has shrunk from $120 million in 2001, when I was first elected Chief Justice, to $89 million in 2014.  This has necessitated the closure of a majority of the circuit clerk's offices for one day a week to allow court specialists to complete needed filings and case processing.  Another effect of inadequate funding is that cases are delayed and justice denied to thousands of victims, children, families, and businesses each year.   

For the past two years many state employees have received salary increases and in 2014 all Executive Branch employees have been cleared to receive merit raises, while employees in the court system have not had a single merit raise or cost of living adjustment since 2008.  While morale is low, we are blessed to have loyal and dedicated personnel who are willing to sacrifice because they truly care about the people of Alabama they serve.  Their faithful service is something for which we can all be proud.

"Level Funding" is a term often used to indicate that an agency will receive the same amount of funding as they did the previous year.  However, during the last three years the budget of the Unified Judicial System does not even receive enough money to pay for mandated costs and expenses which we have incurred! 

During the last ten years, the trial courts of this state have lost $30 million from the "level funding" we should have received as shown in the chart below.  Adjusted for inflation, our loss in real terms is over $73 million.

Nevertheless, the court system collects over $500 million for businesses, child support, restitution for crime victims, and in 2013 contributed over $97 million to Executive Branch agencies alone.  Also, during the past two years our Drug Courts have saved over $32 million in incarceration costs through the rehabilitation and reformation of the lives of young men and women addicted to drugs.

While our Juvenile Courts struggle to help children in need in schools across Alabama through truancy and other educational programs, there has been great resistance to transfer funds from the Education Trust Fund to help those children most in need.  Additionally, our work with juvenile delinquency and neglected and abused children is being placed in jeopardy. 

I call upon the citizens of this State to let your voices be heard by the Alabama Legislature and the Governor, as well as other elected officials, to restore the integrity and ability of the courts of Alabama to serve your needs.  We seek an additional $26 million this year to fulfil our constitutional duties to the citizens of Alabama.  Your help will be greatly appreciated."

INFORMATION SOURCE: Op-Ed by Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore