Local Judge Explains Need for Judicial Funding

April 20, 2017 07:48 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- A Minnesota Supreme Court Justice is making history at the Capitol by being the first to testify before the House and Senate. This is the first time in modern history the Judge has testified before a legislative budget conference committee.

Court Chief Justice, Lorie Gildea is taking up the issue of funding for our court system. Dodge County Assistant Chief Judge Jodi Williamson says the money is essential.


"This state budget is crucial for the judiciary," said Williamson.

Williamson says statewide Minnesota processes more than a million cases a year.

"Having the Supreme Court Justice testify before the committee is the first time that anybody can ever remember that a Supreme Court Justice has gone before the legislature to address the budget,” Williamson said.

The judge testifying at the Capitol is asking lawmakers to reach an agreement on a court budget.

"That would include two additional judgeships for the state of Minnesota. That would include some salary increases for the judges and for staff. It will include maintaining our treatment court throughout the state and those are crucial to being good Stewards of the money that the people in the state of Minnesota get us," Williamson told us.

It's also crucial because our district has seen the effects of

"We closed service counters at the courthouse, I mean literally. So people couldn't get their cases processed. We created a huge backlog in cases statewide. Which doesn't only affect the judicial systems, it affects the jails," Williamson said.

Mower County is one example of the need to fill spots. One year ago the state made an unprecedented move when it added a third judge. At the time, Judge Jeff Thompson said it showed how the large the case load had gotten.

"It's never happened that we have sunset a judicial position in one district, transferred it to another district then converted to a judgeship," said Thompson in April of 2016.

For those reasons, Williamson says the funds being requested are justified.

"Backed up by the statistics, by our weighted caseload, by our performance measures. I mean we're not just asking for this money willy-nilly," said Williamson.

The judge also says right now the district is doing better with staffing and diminishing case backlogs but she says it won't stay that way if the state doesn't provide the necessary resources.


Roxanne Elias

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