Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson (pictured) will deliver his biennial State of the Judiciary address to a combined session of the Legislature on Wednesday, February 23, 2011 at 11:30 am. You can watch the address live through this link by choosing "Chamber Stream."
Expect the forthcoming budget to be one of the Chief’s primary topics. With funding recommendations for the judiciary down 10 percent from 2010-2011, courts (and litigants) are facing tough times. In addition to the reality of staffing reductions, we are in danger of losing the momentum built toward true e-filing in our state appellate courts.
The media is usually quick to comment on these addresses, and the Supreme Court generally publishes the text on its website. I will update this post with that sort of information as it becomes available.
2/23/11 Update: The Chief called the Legislature to action in four areas: juvenile justice; legal services for the poor; wrongful criminal convictions; and judicial selection reform. Surprisingly, he mentioned the budget crisis only in passing. [But see 2/28/11 Update below.]
The text of the address is available here. Links to media coverage appear below.
- The Texas Tribune: Chief Justice Delivers State of the Judiciary
- Austin American-Statesman: Chief justice issues call to action at Capitol
- Austin American-Statesman (Editorial): Texas’ system of electing judges is flagged again
2/28/11 Update (courtesy of Jerry Bullard): The House Appropriations Committee and Senate Finance Committee conducted public hearings on the judiciary’s budget and heard testimony from representatives of the courts and judicial branch agencies. Chief Justice Jefferson testified that, although a 5 percent budget reduction for the next biennium would have a negative impact on appellate court operations, virtually all of courts are willing to accept the cut and not ask that the 5 percent be restored. Instead, the courts wished to focus on ensuring that the Office of Court Administration (OCA) is adequately funded because, in the Chief Justice’s words, OCA is the “lifeblood of the judiciary, especially for the appellate courts” and provides the technological support for the appellate courts in terms of case management and the movement toward electronic filing. The Chief Justice also made a pitch for the Legislature to appropriate sufficient funding for basic civil legal services like it did in 2009 when it appropriated $20 million to offset losses caused by the decrease in IOLTA interest rates.