A GLANCE AT THE FY 2008 JUDICIAL BRANCH BUDGET
The development of the Judicial Branch budget involves a lengthy process lasting almost a full year from start to finish. The process begins, internally, with courts and non-judicial agencies submitting their requests to the Chief Justice for mission critical operating and capital needs each August. Operating requests include staffing and all other types of requests, except capital or building construction and maintenance costs. The budget requests are thoroughly vetted by the court administrators and the chief judges. Development of the request requires the input and cooperation of each of the courts as individual court requests are pared and branch-wide priorities are developed to ensure that the request focuses only on the most crucial items. Once the priorities are established, the budget request is submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in mid-October, with the public hearing on that request with OMB usually occurring in November. The Governor’s recommended budget, including the Governor’s recommendations regarding the Judicial Branch’s budget, is introduced as legislation in January. As a separate Branch of Government, the Judicial Branch has the option of requesting additional budget items beyond those recommended by the Governor, at its hearing before the Joint Finance Committee in the spring. The final budget is generally adopted in June.
In his remarks at the public hearing on the budget on November 14, 2006, Chief Justice Myron T. Steele stated that the Judiciary’s FY ’08 budget request focuses only on the most critical needs of the Judicial Branch and “does not contain ‘nice to have’ items”. He further noted that, although the request is slightly higher than in the last two years, this demonstrates that the Judicial Branch has “finally reached a ‘breaking point’ as the result of our tight budget requests in the recent past.”
For fiscal year 2008 (which extends from July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2008), the Judicial Branch’s top mission critical requests for the operating budget are:
- Expanding leased space in Justice of the Peace Court 13 so that court 12 can be merged with it and the additional space in the Court 12 building can be used to expand specialty courts (such as truancy and civil red light cases)
- Increasing funding for replacement of technology equipment to accommodate scanning and other needs for COTS
- Providing two additional judgeships and related staff for the Superior Court
- Providing additional courtroom staff for the Court of Common Pleas
- Providing electronic court reporters to enhance security by permitting judicial assistants to focus on security, and to improve existing ability to meet public need and the requirement of maintaining the court record.
The top three mission critical capital requests for FY 2008 are:
- Completing the expansion and renovation of the Kent County Courthouse complex
- Improving courthouse security through various physical security improvements and equipment as identified by the U.S. Marshal
- Funding minor capital improvements including those needed for code compliance in the Justice of the Peace Court.
THE DELAWARE COURTS - AN OUTSTANDING VALUE
The Delaware Judiciary’s national and international reputation plays a key role in attracting businesses and contributing to the State’s resources through sources such as the franchise tax and corporate fees, which together account for close to 20% of State revenues.
The Judiciary receives less than 3% of State appropriations.