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Sunday, August 14, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesBUDGET CUT MEANS SERVICE CUT, JUDGE SAYS

BUDGET CUT MEANS SERVICE CUT, JUDGE SAYS

Testifying before the Senate Finance Committee, Presiding Judge Verne Hodge warned that Territorial Court must severely reduce its services to live with the $5 million budget cut recommended by the administration.
The court requested $22 million for fiscal year 2000, the same amount budgeted for the current fiscal year.
Hodge, who last year announced his intention to retire from the bench this fall, acknowledged that cuts must be made, given the government's financial condition.
"I see nothing to be gained by justifying the needs of the Territorial Court," he told the panel on Friday. "What we need, $5 million [more], we cannot get, and we know it." But, he added, "As long as our appropriation is only $17 million. . . the public cannot and should not expect full service or timely service from the court."
Hodge, who has a track record of having the court system live within its means while other agencies pleaded for increases, said the court has a 12-point cost-reduction plan in place.
He said it includes cutting the number of law clerk positions by half, reducing overtime, calling on retirees for volunteer service, encouraging early retirement and privatizing security and maintenance services. He said he has already been "accused of terminating too many senior employees of the court."
He noted that the court system accounts for just 3 percent of the government budget, and said its cost-cutting measures, no matter how extreme, would have a "negligible" impact on the overall fiscal crisis.
In other court system testimony before the Finance Committee, U.S. District Court Judge Raymond Finch said the Government House recommendation of $379,259 for the Judicial Council is the same as for this fiscal year. He said no increases in staff or spending in any category will be considered, a release from the legislature stated.
Testifying for the Public Defender's Office, Atty. Harold Willocks asked for a $3 million increase in the recommended budget. According to the same release, he cited concern about the ability of the office to pay vendors for specialized services during court proceedings.

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Testifying before the Senate Finance Committee, Presiding Judge Verne Hodge warned that Territorial Court must severely reduce its services to live with the $5 million budget cut recommended by the administration.
The court requested $22 million for fiscal year 2000, the same amount budgeted for the current fiscal year.
Hodge, who last year announced his intention to retire from the bench this fall, acknowledged that cuts must be made, given the government's financial condition.
"I see nothing to be gained by justifying the needs of the Territorial Court," he told the panel on Friday. "What we need, $5 million [more], we cannot get, and we know it." But, he added, "As long as our appropriation is only $17 million. . . the public cannot and should not expect full service or timely service from the court."
Hodge, who has a track record of having the court system live within its means while other agencies pleaded for increases, said the court has a 12-point cost-reduction plan in place.
He said it includes cutting the number of law clerk positions by half, reducing overtime, calling on retirees for volunteer service, encouraging early retirement and privatizing security and maintenance services. He said he has already been "accused of terminating too many senior employees of the court."
He noted that the court system accounts for just 3 percent of the government budget, and said its cost-cutting measures, no matter how extreme, would have a "negligible" impact on the overall fiscal crisis.
In other court system testimony before the Finance Committee, U.S. District Court Judge Raymond Finch said the Government House recommendation of $379,259 for the Judicial Council is the same as for this fiscal year. He said no increases in staff or spending in any category will be considered, a release from the legislature stated.
Testifying for the Public Defender's Office, Atty. Harold Willocks asked for a $3 million increase in the recommended budget. According to the same release, he cited concern about the ability of the office to pay vendors for specialized services during court proceedings.