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Bar News - February 13, 2009


State Budget Woes Forcing Difficult Choices for Judicial Branch

All elements of NH state government, including the judicial branch, are being forced to make spending cuts to bring the budget into balance in the current fiscal year, as well as propose extremely tight budgets for the upcoming biennium.

At presstime for Bar News, the NH House of Representatives had approved a package of $16 million in budget cuts for the current fiscal year, including $441,000 for the judicial branch, an amount agreed upon by Gov. Lynch in consultation with Chief Justice John Broderick. The judicial branch budget cutbacks  approved in this legislation involve a number of accounting and administrative changes, ranging from reducing acquistions at the NH Law Library, postponing purchases, and saving on utility costs by disconnecting excess phone lines.  At a House Finance Committee meeting on Jan. 22, Chief Justice Broderick noted that the recent cutback should be considered in light of a reduction of $1.6 million from the budget made this summer before the budgetís passage. He also noted that at the current time:

- 12 percent (7 positions) of the legislatively authorized 59 full-time judicial positions are vacant;

- 6 percent (39 positions) of the non-judicial positions in the judicial branch are vacant

Looking ahead to the next biennium, Justice Broderick said that the judicial branchís ability to meet its mission will be seriously impacted by the cuts that will have to be made to meet the Governorís announced goal that governmental unitsí budgets be no greater than 97 percent of the fiscal year 2009 (current year) budget.

The Governor is due to deliver a budget message on Feb. 12 and he has already said that layoffs may be necessary, althougjh he did not specify where or whether they will be across-the-board.

Visit the Newsroom at www.nhbar.org for links to news articles and documents relating to judicial branch spending in the state budget. Visit www.nhbar.org for a recent interview with Chief Justice Broderick.

If you are in doubt about the status of any meeting, please call the Bar Center at 603-224-6942 before you head out.

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