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Court system budget builds on smart, cooperative approaches to justice

Madison, Wisconsin - October 15, 2014

The Wisconsin court system’s 2015-17 state budget request advances a commitment to the people of Wisconsin to ensure that judges, court staff and justice system stakeholders have the resources necessary to meet the constitutional obligations of the judiciary, said Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson.

“People rely on the courts to resolve disputes in a timely and effective manner, whether a case involves a crime or a civil dispute among individuals, family members or businesses," Abrahamson said.

The budget, submitted to Gov. Scott Walker’s budget office on Oct. 1, would provide an additional $8.6 million annually to the county payment programs to restore the level of state funding to the circuit courts that existed 15 years ago, the time of the last increase to the payment programs. Counties have increased their share of court funding over the years and state funding has not kept up. The overall budget request to run the state courts amounts to a small fraction – less than 1-percent – of state tax dollars.

The budget keeps the focus on smart, innovative approaches to enhancing public safety, reducing recidivism and addressing underlying issues, such as drug and alcohol abuse that may be a contributing factor in some criminal behavior. The budget also builds on the work of Gov. Scott Walker’s statewide Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC), which has provided a statewide framework for continuing innovations initiated by the courts. These efforts include the development of problem-solving courts and the use of effective justice strategies with demonstrated success. The court system’s budget request recognizes that resources are necessary to implement these efforts at the local level.

The budget includes $2.1 million start-up funding for two years toward implementing e-filing throughout the circuit courts. Currently just 24 Wisconsin circuit courts provide attorneys and pro se litigants with the ability to electronically file and receive court documents for certain case types. This budget item would prepare the courts and litigants for a more efficient, affordable and convenient system.

This budget also would support a statewide problem-solving courts coordinator position to continue the work being done by a temporary grant-funded position for which funding expires in June 2015. The statewide coordinator provides assistance not only to the court system as a whole, but to the counties and judges using treatment courts, state agencies, and the statewide CJCC. The Legislative Council’s Study Committee on Problem-Solving Courts voted to recommend that permanent state funding be provided for this statewide coordinator position.

Tom Sheehan
Court Information Officer
(608) 261-6640

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