If another budget cut of 5 percent or more comes down, Magnuson will recommend dramatic action — shutting down conciliation court, cutting hours and suspending prosecution of 21 types of cases, including property damage, harassment, probate, and more than 1 million traffic and parking cases a year.
That last step could interrupt a $200 million flow to local governments.
Magnuson said that shutting down traffic cases is no small move, “but we’re running out of choices here, and I will not compromise the prosecution of criminal cases.”
Another 5% would bring us back closer to the 1970’s as a percentage of the state budget, and I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing. Criminal cases must be a priority, and if there is no money for the others, there isn’t. Obviously some of this is real, and some is political spin for more money. There has to be a cost/benefit analysis done, granted criminal prosecution costs are much higher than they were years ago. Now, this may mean limited court access or alternative means of resolution for other matters, and in some cases, laws would need to be repealed or changed. When it comes down to prosecuting, and keeping a non violent individual in prison, or hiring/retaining a few teacher(s), or getting medical care to those in need, I would error on the later two over the first one. That’s how things worked years ago, that’s how they can work again. The exception of course is if the citizens want to spend a lot more on taxes, and if they do, fine, but be open as to what the tradeoffs would be.
I do however agree with Chief Justice Magnuson as well as concerns the erosion of the rule of law and its impact on society, but with a different spin on it. If the govt cannot afford the rule of law they created, than the rule of law needs to be changed to make it affordable.
No matter what, once efficiency is wrung out, then no more cuts can be made… and wringing efficiency out of the legal system is a very slow process with tons of unintended consequences. Changing the rule of law would be less expensive, faster and likely less prone to counterproductive consequences.
Neither change of course is politically friendly, but the days of Cadillac rules of law for cheap must end. Either pay through the nose while carefully going after efficiency gains, or change the law, I’d go with change the law as I’m cheap, its faster, and I fully believe history shows it works. Others will view this differently.