Crisis In The Courts: Defining The Problem

Source: American Bar Association, Task Force On Preservation Of The Justice System, HOD Resolution 302, 2011

The courts of our country are in crisis. The failure of state and local legislatures to provide adequate funding is effectively — at times quite literally — closing the doors of our justice system. At the same time, Congress has reduced its support for both the federal courts and other programs that directly and indirectly support our justice system at the state, county and municipal levels.

As a result, over the last few years, the courts of virtually every state have been forced into debilitating combinations of hiring freezes, pay cuts, judicial furloughs, staff layoffs, early retirements, increased filing fees, and outright closures. These reductions in court staff and related resources come at the very time when the demand for the judicial resolution of economic claims has increased dramatically. Our courts, already short-staffed, have thus been forced to lay off judges, clerks and other personnel just as they are being inundated with hundreds of thousands of new foreclosures, personal and small business bankruptcies, credit card and other collection matters, domestic fractures, and the many other lawsuits resulting from the Recession. The courts must then deal with these increased caseloads, often facing the additional problems created when litigants proceed pro se, which occurs all the more frequently in hard economic times.

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