Eye On Boise

Bad economy means higher court caseloads

Patti Tobias, Idaho Supreme Court administrator, tells lawmakers that court caseloads are up in Idaho's down economy, 1/19/09 (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)
Patti Tobias, Idaho Supreme Court administrator, tells lawmakers that court caseloads are up in Idaho's down economy, 1/19/09 (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

As Idaho's judicial branch has its budget hearing before lawmakers this morning, Idaho Supreme Court Administrator Patti Tobias told JFAC, "Caseloads are increasing during these turbulent times." District courts in Idaho have sen an unprecedented 17 percent increase in caseload in the past year, she said. Asked by lawmakers what would help the courts, she said wryly, "If we could add more than 24 hours to the day..." The courts are prepared to revert $1.3 million, 4.3 percent of their budget, if absolutely necessary, she told lawmakers, but said, "It worries me to death." Already, judges have agreed to work two days without pay, and all court employees are being ordered to take a two-day unpaid furlough. Meeting the full holdback means a continuation of dramatic cuts in hours and subscriptions at the state law library, canceling of key training, and delays in replacing iSTARS computers at counties across the state beyond their warranty date, among other steps.

If a permanent cut to that scale is needed, she said, an emergency surcharge may need to be added to civil and criminal court filings and technology fees may need to be increased to keep the iSTARS system up and running. "We can't slow down justice," Tobias said. "We can't stop hearing certain types of cases. ... We can't say to any Idahoan, 'You don't deserve justice as provided by the Constitution.'"




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