May 01, 2013

New Handbook Offers Strategies for Restoring Court Funding

By Jesse Rutledge and Bert Brandenburg

As the judicial funding crisis entered another year, U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts sounded an alarm in his 2012 year-end report: “The Judiciary has been doing its part to carefully manage its tiny portion of the federal budget. Because the Judiciary has already pursued cost-containment so aggressively, it will become increasingly difficult to economize further without reducing the quality of judicial services.” The Chief Justice’s comments came on the heels of an American Bar Association (ABA) Task Force on the Preservation of the Judiciary—established by ABA President William T. Robinson III and co-chaired by megawatt lawyers David Boies and Ted Olson—that collected testimony on the impact of funding cuts on courts and court users. As New York’s chief judge, Jonathan Lippmann, put it: “Access to justice cannot be a pay-as-you-go enterprise.”

To complement these high-level efforts, Justice at Stake and the National Center for State Courts have published a new handbook to help make the strongest case possible for adequate funding. The guide, Funding Justice: Strategies and Messages for Restoring Court Funding, includes research-tested recommendations on the best ways to talk about court funding and get traction with decision makers and the public.

Funding Justice builds on more than a year of work of gathering data and identifying best messages. As its introduction explains, the National Center for State Courts and Justice at Stake believe this handbook is designed to help court-funding advocates “tell the story of the courts, and why they matter, in an era when the public is very focused on government austerity.”

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