Courts all over the country are in fiscal pain, doubling down on staff after cuts, cutting hours, and sometimes even closing courthouses.
Alaska is freezing out courts with cuts that feel draconian, even as legislators scramble to shape a budget that will enable Alaskans to continue to access justice without undue hardship. Governor Bill Walker proposed a total cut of $100 million to the state budget, some of that cut will fall directly on the courts. The Alaskan court system has trimmed its budget by 3.5 percent this year, a percentage equal to $3.8 million. Under pressure to become even leaner, Alaska Supreme Court Justice Craig Stowers has reassured state legislators that the court system has taken steps to cut costs with more on the way. Sounding resolute yet tough-minded, Justice Stowers spoke to the state legislature and urged, “My friends, do not be afraid: Fear is the mind-killer. Be bold. Also, be selfless and look to the greater good. You are our elected leaders and leaders sometimes have to make hard decisions their constituents don’t immediately understand or agree with.” These words of stalwart encouragement are necessary since it is possible that some remote Alaska court locations may have to close. This would impact rural Alaskans, particularly Native American and Inuit Alaskans. Stowers is not copacetic regarding this possibility — stating that these closures would be a “terrible travesty” and would make the efforts to reach out to and serve Alaskans in remote parts of the state very difficult. For many, the courts are the face of state government. Certainly, Alaska state government faces complex and difficult decisions as it attempts to live within narrow means.
Many States are Impacted by Budget Cuts
Alaska is not alone, as unfortunately the states of Colorado, Ohio, Indiana, California, as well as many others, face budgetary crunches that are deep and unforgiving. In Ohio the Chief Judge of the State Supreme Court warned that the budget cuts being proposed by Gov. Matt Bevin would shut down the court system. In Colorado, state lawmakers are set to cut $100 million from the current state budget and $60 million from reserves; these budget cuts will impact courts. California also continues to face budgetary restraints as courts struggle to recover from the ongoing impact of the Great Recession that curtailed court services as courts cut staff and shortened hours.
VCourt Saves Money and Raises Revenue
All is not lost. Even as courts struggle to live within their means and hope for better times ahead, there are ways to make processes more efficient and streamlined creating revenue in the process. Enter VCourt to the rescue! VCourt will bring defendants and attorneys to court virtually, allowing them to appear telephonically or on video through a user-friendly console that is easy to manage and use. The public no longer has to travel to the court through snow, over long distances, in the rain, or for any reason if they feel it is more convenient to stay home and make a virtual appearance. This flexibility cuts down on irritating “no shows” that cause the court stress as time is wasted and money evaporates while rescheduling a lost court appearance. In addition, VCourt enables courts to charge a fee for use and raise revenue while dispensing justice.
VCourt is one of our Justice Portals powered by streamWrite, an ATI Connect company. StreamWrite would like to connect your court to this convenient and cost cutting solution, contact us today for a free consultative call.Tags: Justice Portal, Justice Solutions, telephonic solutions, V-Court, Virtual Appearances