Alaska

State/Local Funding

  • The Alaska Judiciary is a state funded system.  
  • The state pays for the Appellate Courts and the Administrative Office of the Courts and for the salaries of trial court judges, support staff and clerical staff.  The state pays for technology equipment and operating expenses.  The state pays for the local courthouses and their maintenance and equipment.   
  • Alaska’s total state and federal grant appropriation was increased from $105.4 million in FY12 to $110.8 million in FY13.  The state general fund appropriation increased from $101.6 million to $107.2 million, an increase of 6%.  The percent of the state general fund appropriation allocated to the Judiciary increased from 2.08% to 2.12%
  • Technology funding has increase by 5% over the past year.  In FY12, the court system received $1.4 million for development of an e-filing document management system and in FY13 received another $1.785 million.  For FY14, the Alaska court system is seeking an additional $5.9 million.  This funding comes to the court system through a capital appropriation.  This funding for technology projects is in addition to the appropriations identified above.
  • Some fines have increase since FY2009, but they were not increased in order to enhance revenue for the courts.
  • The budget situation in the next three years is likely to stay relatively the same.

Funding Principles for Judicial Administration

  • The judicial branch presents the Judiciary’s budget request directly to the legislative body without prior approval by the executive branch. 
  • The judicial branch has budget authority to manage and administer appropriated funds without restrictions of detailed budget line items.  Judicial budgets contain too many line items and permission is required to move funds from one line to another.
    The FY13 budget is not sufficient to enable the courts to provide or enhance necessary technology to meet the demands of the public.  Technology plans and reviews have indicated that the Alaska Court System requires several staff persons to meet current and future technical needs.
  • The introduction of technologies has enabled the courts and others to provide and receive enhanced court services.  The ability to pay fines and to look up case filing information on the Internet has provided citizens with greater efficiency and access to the court system.

Steps Taken to Address Tough Economic Times

Staffing Levels:  Over the past four years, the number of judges has increased by 6%, the number of trial court staff persons has increased by 2%.  The number of central office staff persons has increased 1% and spending on trial court operating expenses has increased 16%.  In FY13, the number of trial court staff will increase 1% and trial court operating expenses will increase 6%.

Service Reductions:  Non-judicial positions are only funded at 95% of the budgeted cost.  To meet this underfunding requirement as non-judicial positions are vacated, rehires are not made until a 30-day vacancy period has been satisfied. Requests for waivers of the required 30-day vacancy period can be approved by the administrative director.

Efficiency Measures:

  • The Alaska courts have implemented e-filing, an enhanced case management system. They have implemented e-citations by law enforcement agencies, e-payment of fines and fees, virtual self-help centers, and a virtual web-based information center to provide public access to records.
  • The Alaska Court System is in the process of developing e-filing and Document Management systems, but it will not be up and running in FY13.

Restructuring: The Alaska courts have expanded the jurisdiction and use of subordinate judicial officers, reallocated staff, and made use of part-time staff and off-hours workers. They will continue to reallocate staff. They are expanding their use of retired and pro tem judges.

Business Processes:

  • The Alaska courts have enhanced their caseflow management program, created a statewide fine schedule for petty misdemeanors, implemented “in-court updating” for docket entries and sentencing orders and videoconferencing of incarcerated defendants. They have transitioned to digital recording of court proceedings.
  • The Alaska Court System is exploring the possibility of expanded use of videoconferencing for some court proceedings. In Anchorage, they have a courtroom located in the jail. Rather than having the prisoners travel to the court, the judge travels to the jail. The Alaska Court System has occasionally used videoconferencing or webcams for proceedings requiring a deaf interpreter.

Outsourcing: The Alaska courts have outsourced network services and the provision of language access services.

Centralization: The Alaska courts have centralized jury qualification and summoning.

  • The State of Alaska has a Criminal Justice Working Group with representation from all the justice agencies.  This group works on efficiencies and improvements in all aspects of the criminal justice system.  There is also a committee that works on streamlining the exchange of data between justice agencies to reduce redundant data entry.
  • The Alaska courts are in a better position than in FY09 to provide access and timely justice.  The Alaska Court System has received increased funding for additional judges and clerical staff to assist with court caseloads.  They have also received funding and legislative support for an e-filing and document management system, which when fully implemented should promote improved access and timely justice.

Reports and Articles  

Gavel to Gavel

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