. . . is to deliver fair, timely and accessible justice for all. As part of that mission, Pennsylvania’s courts strive to serve the public efficiently, with innovation and appropriate transparency, and an eye on costs.
Adequate funding allows the mission to be met.
During today’s hearing we welcome the opportunity to answer your questions about the judiciary’s budget and programs, including:
We respect the difficult job you have to do and, on behalf of the Supreme Court, look forward to talking with you about the judiciary’s operations.
The judiciary works hard to maximize the collections of fines, costs and restitution. Over the last nine years, $4.1 BILLION has been collected. In 2015, more than $464 million was collected, which was $2 million more than last year and is 25 percent more than the judiciary’s budget request this year. For the most part, these dollars do not flow back to the judiciary. They are distributed primarily to state and local governments, including airports and parking authorities, and to programs that support victims.
Thanks to AOPC/IT efforts, the judiciary has made it easier to make fine, fee and cost payments and, the judiciary believes, that ease has led to increased collections. (See PAePay)
Thanks to the budget recently passed by the legislature and signed by the governor, in the current fiscal year the judiciary has been able to meet its increased costs which are driven by pension requirements and health care costs.
The increase in the 2016-17 budget request can be primarily attributed to the same two factors. Less than 2 percent of the requested increase is due to operating costs. There is one new line item for the Office of Elder Justice in the Courts.
Over the past eight years, staff and jurists have consistently sought ways to save. From renegotiated leases to AOPC staff reorganization, the efforts have paid off, saving $73 million cumulatively in tax dollars.
Pennsylvania has 1,027 constitutionally-mandated jurists including those at the magisterial district, Common Pleas, Superior, Commonwealth and Supreme courts. There are 194 district court administrators and deputy court administrators. Finally, 371 AOPC staff provide services for jurists, staff and the people of Pennsylvania including technology support, communications, human resources, budgeting, accounting, legal, intergovernmental relations, court programs, research and education.
Despite the fact that only 4 percent of the judiciary’s budget goes to operations, the courts have been able to implement several programs that improve people’s lives and save money.
The Office of Children and Families in the Courts saves millions annually by keeping kids with family members which, in turn, eliminates time otherwise spent in foster care, reduces potential emotional trauma and saves taxpayer dollars.
Problem solving courts, including veterans and drug courts, divert nonviolent offenders from jail if they comply with treatment and program requirements.
Access to the state court system is important for everyone, including Limited English Proficiency (LEP) persons. Mapping LEP populations at the state and county level helps identify the statewide need and guides the process of providing improved access to court programs and services.