Summary: Bolger said the court system is committed to completing its duties even with reduced budget. Speaking with reporters after the speech, Bolger said though there were some conflicts between the judiciary and the other branches of government, he had trust in the system. The framers of the Alaska constitution crafted a good system for the selection of judges, and that they had been able to learn from the experience of the previous 48 state court systems.
HB 115, passes the House, 24-15.
The House is back in session and discussing bills that were left unfinished from Monday. Currently representatives are debating Rep. Chris Tuck’s, D-Anchorage, bill on voting by mail.
Opponents of the bill argue the bill would perpetually send ballots to people who may not be using them to vote. That presents a cost to the state and is not efficient. Under Tuck’s proposal, ballots would stop being sent after five years of unanswered ballots.
Earlier, Rep. Sara Rasmussen, R-Anchorage, submitted an amendment that would have moved all municipal elections to the fall, but that failed.
The court system must be able to make decisions independently, outside of any political interests or financial incentives, Bolger says. The court system is committed to providing equal justice for all.
Despite the decreased staffing the courts are determined to do their duties to the best of their abilities, Bolger said.
Therapeutic courts have shown to be very effective in reducing recidivism, Bolger says, but they are resource intensive.
“Our statewide coordinator is in dire need of assistance,” he says, and the court system is asking for funding for a deputy coordinator.
The state does need limited additional funds, Bolger says. There is a backlog of criminal cases that needs additional funding.
The three judges on that backlog are working a grueling schedule, he says, but there are still a number of felony cases coming in.
“We cannot continue without additional funding,” he says.
Sen. David Wilson, R-Wasilla, has a bill that would temporarily add a fourth judge that would help work through the backlog.
The greatest challenge to the judiciary are the cuts to the state budget Bolger says. He thanks the legislature for funding what they can under the current circumstance.
“The court system does not have optional programs,” Bolger says. “In fact, we have seen an unprecedented growth in our case-loads.”
While the court system can’t cut back on its duties, efficiencies have been found within the system that have streamlined the process.
Today at the Capitol: Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Joel Bolger will address a joint session of the Legislature to give his State of the Judiciary speech. The state’s court system has not be spared from budget reductions in the past few years. While Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s supplemental budget for FY2020 does include some funds for legal services in rural Alaska, the governor’s vetoes to judiciary funds are one of the items cited by the campaign to recall the governor.