Pennsylvania courts are called upon to fairly and efficiently resolve cases that are important to individuals, families and businesses — meaning the need for court funding is not just about judges and courtrooms.
It’s also about court programs that affect the lives of Pennsylvanians every day.
In recent years, the need for adequate and stable funding has become even more pressing to address years of underfunding —mostly of salaries for trial and magisterial district judges.
However, a strong working relationship with the executive and legislative branches of government — coupled with internal savings — has allowed Pennsylvania’s Judiciary to maintain services at the state and county levels.
It’s important to note that court funding is not just about judges and courtrooms.
Many initiatives begun in Pennsylvania have served as role models for other state court systems in the nation. Programs that help strengthen communities, individuals, families and businesses also are funded through Pennsylvania’s courts.
And jurists — as well as court staff — are dedicated to using resources as efficiently as possible. In addition, the court system is always seeking innovative ways to use technology and take other steps for greater efficiency and enhanced performance.
Though millions of cases flow through the system each year, Pennsylvania’s Judiciary receives less than 1% of the state’s total budget.
Pennsylvania’s court system continues to work with the legislative and executive branches in spending reductions in a number of ways — chiefly by right-sizing magisterial district judgeships. Studies are underway to determine if it is feasible to recommend a reduction in the number of the state’s Common Pleas judges to achieve even greater savings.
Phasing county prothonotaries, clerks of courts, and their key deputies into state judicial employment is a priority in the Judiciary’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2014-2015. It is similar to the transfer to state service of district court administrators and their key deputies, which took place in 2000. The aim is to integrate the functions of the offices into the state system, deriving a more efficient administration of justice for those who use the courts and more cost effective for the taxpayers who fund them.
No new tax dollars are envisioned to fulfill the major aspect of this transition. Instead, the judiciary’s proposal envisions shifting part of counties’ annual state-funded court reimbursement grant to this purpose. AOPC staff has consulted with the Pennsylvania Prothonotaries and Clerks of Courts Association and the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania to craft a viable proposal, and it continues to do so.