Oklahoma

State/Local Funding

  • The Oklahoma 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 for the courts.   Local courthouses and equipment are paid by local funding bodies.
  • The Chief Justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court has superintending control over the budgets of the 77 local district courts. In both FY 11/12 and FY 12/13, these courts were authorized to pay approximately $40,000,000.00 in local trial court expenses from fines, fees, costs, and other assessments.  These expenses are not reflected in the attached summaries of "state" expenses.  The balance of the district court collections (fines, fees, costs and judicial assessments) are sent to the Administrative Office of the Courts for state expenses and are included in the figures that are attached.

State Revenue and Appropriations

  • Oklahoma’s total state and federal grant appropriation was increased from $97.7 million in FY12 to $100.5 million in FY13.  The state general fund appropriation increased from $24.9 million to $25.9 million; the percent of the state general fund appropriation allocated to the Judiciary remained at less than 1%.
  • General fund appropriations for the Supreme Court have been reduced approximately 12% over the last four years.  However, the court has continued to perform all of its work in a timely manner.  General fund appropriations to the District Courts have been reduced by over 60% over the last four years.  However, the Chief Justice and Administrative Office of the Courts have worked with the judges and clerks in the District Courts to reduce their operating expenses and substantially increase their collections during this same period of time.  As a result, the District Courts still have adequate funding to perform their work.
  • Over the past four years, funding for technology has increased 8%.
  • 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.
  • The FY13 budget enables the courts to provide and enhance necessary technology to meet the demands of the public. 
  • The introduction of technologies has enabled the courts and others to provide and receive enhanced court services.

Steps Taken to Address Tough Economic Times

Staffing Levels and Operating Expenses: 

  • Over the past four years, the number of judges and trial court staff has remained the same.  The number of central office staff has increased by 25%.  Spending on trial court operating expenses has been reduced by 12%.
  • In the coming year, the number of judges, staff persons and the amount spent on trial court operating expenses will remain the same.

Compensation:  Over the past four years, salaries of judges and court staff have been frozen; judges’ salaries will continue to be frozen in the coming year.

Service Reductions: 

  • Over the past four years, the Oklahoma courts have delayed filling judicial vacancies and vacancies in the clerks’ offices and in judicial support positions.
  • In the coming year, they will continue to delay filling vacancies.

Efficiency Measures:  The Oklahoma courts have enabled law enforcement to issue e-citations.  In the coming year, the Oklahoma courts will implement e-filing, an electronic document management system, an enhanced case management system, electronic workflow, and a virtual web-based information center to provide public access to records.  They will implement e-payment of fines and fees.

Business Processes:  The Oklahoma courts have implemented remote videoconferencing of incarcerated defendants.  In the coming year, they plan to implement an enhanced caseflow management program and remote videoconferencing of detained juveniles.

Outsourcing:  The Oklahoma courts outsource the collection of fines.

The Oklahoma courts are in a better position than in FY09 to provide access and timely justice.  Budget shortfalls have encouraged the Judiciary to take a closer look at the local expenses of the District Courts and to focus on their needs vs. their wants.  The Judiciary believes that they have accomplished that goal even though some of the staff reductions that occurred may have placed additional work on others.  Their increased emphasis on collections has held more criminal defendants accountable for their judicial debt and forced them to comply with judicial orders.

If and when the budget situation improves, the additional moneys will not be used to restore the cuts that have been made.  Most of Oklahoma’s judicial staff (and other support personnel) have not received any salary increases or cost of living benefits since 2006.  Many feel that this situation needs to be addressed if and when the Judiciary has sufficient funds to do so.  The Oklahoma courts have been doing more with less for several years.

Reports and Articles

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