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Court Requests Budget $9.6 Million Above Governor's Figure

Aug. 5, 2008 — The V.I. Superior Court requested a 2009 budget of $39.9 million Tuesday during Senate Finance Committee hearings, $9.6 million more than Gov. John deJongh Jr.'s budget recommendation of $30.3 million and $12.4 million more than last year's budget.
"I think the governor may have missed that we have a completely new division," said V.I. Superior Court Presiding Judge Darryl Donohue. The Superior Court has eight months to set up a magistrate division and expects to spend $7.5 million on the magistrate division this coming year, Donohue said. (See "Superior Court has Eight Months to Set Up Magistrate Division.")
Two magistrate judges in each district will be responsible for hearing — among other things — traffic offenses, litter cases, misdemeanor criminal cases, arraignments, small-claims cases and probate matters. Magistrates will serve four-year terms and earn a salary equal to 85 percent of the salary paid to V.I. Superior Court judges.
V.I. Supreme Court Chief Justice Rhys Hodge laid out the Supreme Court's budget request of $7.3 million. This is $2.8 million more than the governor's budget recommendation of $5.5 million.
The $7.3 million request reflects $4 million for salaries and benefits. Another $1 million is slated for an appellate case-management system, to keep track of case information online with a digital system compatible with national standards. (Some case information is available at visupremecourt.org. If you sign up you will receive notification and a link to new opinions.)
The remaining $2.3 million is for operational costs. The nascent territorial Supreme Court was established in January 2007. Since then, 114 cases have been filed to the court, with 36 closed and 78 still pending, Hodge said. Many of the cases still open are not waiting on the court, but rather await actions from the attorneys involved.
"Despite the pending figure indicated above, many of those pending matters are only now becoming ready for hearing and disposition," Hodge said.
For its St. Croix location, the V.I. Supreme Court purchased No. 18 Strand Street in Frederiksted and, after renovations, took occupancy in October 2007. On St. Thomas, the Supreme Court has a lease with the V.I. Port Authority on a building in Crown Bay.
The new court has been struggling financially, Hodge said. In 2008, the Supreme Court requested $9.2 million but received an even $3 million.
"In sum, we spent no more than was absolutely required at great sacrifice to the court's development and staff," he said. "Accordingly, the court currently employs only 24 individuals, which is only 50 percent of the amount required for the proper operation and functioning of the court."
Senators spoke supportively about the judiciary's budget requests, but made no promises to approve anything above the governor's recommendation.
"The last time around the budget was very, very difficult, and this time will also be difficult," said Sen. Liston A. Davis. "It will be a juggling act to see if we can meet the competing demands of many agencies."
No votes were taken. Present were Davis and Sens. Terrence "Positive" Nelson, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Ronald Russell, James Weber III. Sens. Neville James and Juan Figueroa-Serville were absent.
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Aug. 5, 2008 -- The V.I. Superior Court requested a 2009 budget of $39.9 million Tuesday during Senate Finance Committee hearings, $9.6 million more than Gov. John deJongh Jr.'s budget recommendation of $30.3 million and $12.4 million more than last year's budget.
"I think the governor may have missed that we have a completely new division," said V.I. Superior Court Presiding Judge Darryl Donohue. The Superior Court has eight months to set up a magistrate division and expects to spend $7.5 million on the magistrate division this coming year, Donohue said. (See "Superior Court has Eight Months to Set Up Magistrate Division.")
Two magistrate judges in each district will be responsible for hearing -- among other things -- traffic offenses, litter cases, misdemeanor criminal cases, arraignments, small-claims cases and probate matters. Magistrates will serve four-year terms and earn a salary equal to 85 percent of the salary paid to V.I. Superior Court judges.
V.I. Supreme Court Chief Justice Rhys Hodge laid out the Supreme Court's budget request of $7.3 million. This is $2.8 million more than the governor's budget recommendation of $5.5 million.
The $7.3 million request reflects $4 million for salaries and benefits. Another $1 million is slated for an appellate case-management system, to keep track of case information online with a digital system compatible with national standards. (Some case information is available at visupremecourt.org. If you sign up you will receive notification and a link to new opinions.)
The remaining $2.3 million is for operational costs. The nascent territorial Supreme Court was established in January 2007. Since then, 114 cases have been filed to the court, with 36 closed and 78 still pending, Hodge said. Many of the cases still open are not waiting on the court, but rather await actions from the attorneys involved.
"Despite the pending figure indicated above, many of those pending matters are only now becoming ready for hearing and disposition," Hodge said.
For its St. Croix location, the V.I. Supreme Court purchased No. 18 Strand Street in Frederiksted and, after renovations, took occupancy in October 2007. On St. Thomas, the Supreme Court has a lease with the V.I. Port Authority on a building in Crown Bay.
The new court has been struggling financially, Hodge said. In 2008, the Supreme Court requested $9.2 million but received an even $3 million.
"In sum, we spent no more than was absolutely required at great sacrifice to the court's development and staff," he said. "Accordingly, the court currently employs only 24 individuals, which is only 50 percent of the amount required for the proper operation and functioning of the court."
Senators spoke supportively about the judiciary's budget requests, but made no promises to approve anything above the governor's recommendation.
"The last time around the budget was very, very difficult, and this time will also be difficult," said Sen. Liston A. Davis. "It will be a juggling act to see if we can meet the competing demands of many agencies."
No votes were taken. Present were Davis and Sens. Terrence "Positive" Nelson, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Ronald Russell, James Weber III. Sens. Neville James and Juan Figueroa-Serville were absent.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.