Jury Per Diem Reduced in Response to Budget Shortfall
Friday, July 18, 2008
On August 4, the daily per diem for jurors serving in Minnesota Courts will be reduced from $20 to $10. Jurors will continue to be reimbursed for mileage and day care expenses. This is one of many strategies the Judicial Branch is using to address its $19 million budget shortfall for the current fiscal year. The decision to take this step was made after considerable debate by the Judicial Council, and is just one of a number of steps the Council has considered or taken.
In recent months, the Judicial Branch has been forced to institute numerous service and staff reductions to accommodate the shortfall including:
- Abolishing or holding open 9% of our staff positions
- Closing court public counters a half day per week in three judicial districts - 3rd, 4th, 10th
- Closing a satellite court in Washington County (Cottage Grove)
- Delaying conciliation court calendars
- Terminating Fourth Judicial District civil arbitration services
- Stopping funding of Fourth Judicial District family court supervised visitation services
- Reducing staffing for Hennepin County Domestic Abuse Service Center
- Reducing funding to drug courts
- Reducing use of retired judges to hear cases
The Minnesota Judicial Branch already operates in a highly efficient and effective manner, as evidenced by a study conducted by the Office of the Legislative Auditor. The study concluded that Minnesota's trial courts meet or exceed case processing times of other states and carry caseloads 49% higher than comparable states.
The Branch continues to examine its delivery of services and find ways to improve efficiency. A special committee of the Judicial Council is currently studying changes in business and case processing practices that would further streamline court business while preserving a justice system that assures equal access for the fair and timely resolution of cases and controversies. With the completion of the transition to a new case management system this spring - the Minnesota Court Information System (MNCIS) - the branch recently gained the ability throughout the state to move forward on technical innovations that will greatly improve efficiency. Unfortunately any future savings from these innovations will not be sufficient to address the current budget issues.
"We very much regret having to institute these service and staff reductions," said Chief Justice Eric J. Magnuson. "However, the budget constraints we are currently operating under require such measures. We are trying to institute them in ways that have the least impact on the public and litigants. The Judicial Council and the entire judiciary will continue to grapple with these issues in the weeks to come, and looks forward to continued discussion with the legislative and executive branches in an effort to achieve workable solutions."