Judicial Council Will Ask For 14 Percent Budget Increase
Judicial education, accountability courts ranked as priorities for extra funding
Georgia courts will ask the state Legislature for an extra $1.7 million, a 14 percent budget increase, for the next fiscal year to pay for more judicial education, bolster accountability courts, extend the statewide e-filing program and shore up the retirement fund for judges.
The Judicial Council of Georgia, made up of trial and appellate court judges from across the state, unanimously approved the budget proposal Friday during a meeting in Atlanta.
"The lay of the land, budget-wise, is that the state is doing pretty well in terms of revenue received," said state Supreme Court Justice Harold Melton, who chairs the council's budget committee. However, he cautioned that he expects the governor's office will instruct state departments and agencies to "hold steady."
Melton also cautioned the council that the 14 percent budget increase request for fiscal year 2015, which begins in July, may be a hard sell to lawmakers and that judges should be willing to compromise.
"It will provide a challenge with the Legislature to get to an amount they can work with," Melton told the council.
That's why, he said, the budget committee ranked its request priorities. The top priority is more education for judges, leading to a request for $39,182 morefor the Institute for Continuing Legal Education. The second priority is more funding for accountability courts, which are popping up across the state. The council is requesting an extra$78,806 for them.
The largest increases in the fiscal year 2015 budget request, however, are assigned to e-filing and legal services for victims of domestic violence.
The additional $208,000 sought for e-filing would allow the council to hire a consultant who could work out the technology pieces needed to fully implement the program, Melton said. The Judicial Council had requested the same amount from the Legislature during the last session but was denied. The Legislature allotted no state money to the e-filing program for the current fiscal year.
The council is requesting more than $700,000 be added to the grant program that pays for legal services for domestic violence victims, which the state has funded since fiscal year 1999. In fiscal year 2012, the state appropriated $1.7 million for domestic violence victims, which was administered to various local agencies by the Administrative Office of the Courts. The money may be used by agencies to help victims obtain temporary protective orders and housing as well as pursue custody and child support matters in court.
The council is also advocating a 2 percent increase for the remainder of the current fiscal year, which totals $263,358. Much of that money—more than $120,000—would go toward bolstering the Council of State Court Judges Retirement Fund. The council is requesting more than $410,000 be added to the retirement fund in fiscal year 2015, as well.