Published April 11, 2009
Following Lisa Antonini's monk-like lead, I originally did not want to work during the Easter holiday regardless of pressing news events affecting the public I serve.
But I saw this item, and it got me to thinking about our county judges (except Judge Dellick) ordering more funding. And my mind started wandering.
From an Iowa newspaper:
• No court again Friday: The closure comes from a Feb. 27 order by the Iowa Supreme Court. The Judicial Branch anticipates $3.8 million reduction in the 2008-09 operating budget. With the order, all court staff also will take unpaid leave April 24, May 8, May 22, June 5 and June 19, 2009. One day of unpaid leave for about 1,600 judicial employees except judges and magistrates reduces expenditures by $335,009.
Judges and magistrates are not subject to the unpaid leave order because the legislature sets their salaries and the supreme court lacks the statutory authority to change these salaries. On days the court offices are closed, judges and magistrates will work in their chambers to maintain a minimal level of access to the courts.
The order also reduces the public hours of all offices of the clerk of district court. Clerks' offices will be closed to the public on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:30 p.m. to closing.
Here's a more extensive version of the Iowa courts situation from another newspaper. I like this quote down in the story: "... we must work with the funds the Legislature provides, which means that we had to make difficult decisions like reducing travel, forcing employees to take unpaid leave, closing courts for eight days and reducing court services."
Here's a look at what court operations are facing in Philly.
And as I offered on Louie Free's radio show Thursday, if our county judges are to thrust their "nonnegotiable" order for more funds, they should first explain the severe disparity in how their courts operate.
Here are links to the stories about this problem that reporter Pete Milliken wrote in 2007:
-- Here's the lead story: Every official has a different reason for Mahoning having state's 4th worst backlog
-- Cool comparison with a neighbor: Stark County outperforms our courts
-- Our editorial: Get it fixed now
From that package, here was each judge's six-month load at the end of 2006:
Judge R. Scott Krichbaum had 12 criminal cases pending beyond six months;
Judge Maureen A. Cronin had 43;
Judge Maureen A. Sweeney, 70;
Judge James C. Evans, 112;
Judge John M. Durkin, 122.
Now in fairness, these are 2006 stats. There's a chance these numbers have turned around dramatically.
But seriously, this is Mahoning County, where some government leaders can't invest 20 minutes of time even on a holiday eve to discuss the end of their political leadership.