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Chief Justice Magnuson: Funding Core Government Services Should Be Top Priority

Posted: Thursday, December 04, 2008

"Today's state budget forecast underscores the most important task ahead for legislators -  funding core government functions with limited resources.  This includes the justice system. Minnesota's courts not only resolve two million cases a year for Minnesota's citizens and businesses, they protect public safety, and play a key role in preserving the rule of law and an orderly society. 

To date, Minnesota's courts have proven to be some of the most innovative and efficient in the nation, employing cutting-edge management and case processing strategies. We continue to work closely with our partners in the justice system to identify new ways to improve efficiency. The courts will continue to share in the sacrifices being made at all levels of government.  But we cannot innovate our way out of the sizeable funding shortfall the judiciary currently faces. The vast majority of our budget funds the judges and staff who operate a system already straining under the workload.  By design, we are a personnel-dependent branch of government with unique constitutional obligations to resolve whatever disputes are brought to our doors. 

Of great concern to me is the fact that during economic downturns, court business goes up as conflicts and crime tend to increase.  The Minnesota Judicial Branch is already at a tipping point, operating short nine percent of our staff need and having cut services dramatically throughout the state.  The very last thing we can afford during a time of unprecedented national and state financial crises is a further cut in funding to the court system.  The consequences for public safety, our constitutional obligations, and the people we serve are too great.

We look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature in the upcoming session to preserve the effective operation of this core government function." 

Eric J. Magnuson
Chief Justice