Puerto Rico

State/Local Funding

  • The Judiciary of Puerto Rico is a state (territorial) 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 for the courts, courthouses and equipment.

State Revenue and Appropriations

  • Puerto Rico’s total state and federal grant appropriation was increased from $353.5 million in FY12 to $358.3 million in FY13.  The state general fund appropriation increased from $342.8 million to $347.8 million; the percent of the state general fund appropriation allocated to the Judiciary increased from 3.7% to 3.8%.
  • In 2002, the Puerto Rico Legislature approved a bill to determine the budget that would be assigned to the Judicial Branch.  The formula represents 4% of the average the State General Fund revenues during the two most recent fiscal years. The Special Funds revenues source is mostly the fees and fines charged to civil cases.  The Federal Grant included funds authorized during the FY 2011-2012 and FY 2012-2013.
  • The FY13 budget includes $10 million in state special funds.  The Puerto Rico Judicial Branch developed a Strategic Plan for 2012 to 2015.  The strategic plan is the result of a broad consultation process to agree in the actions that best improve the judicial services.  The special initiatives are grouped in four general categories: ethics and judicial independence; administration of justice; access to justice; and institutional and human capital development.  Some of the initiatives that will be pursued during FY 2012 to 2013 are the expansion of the Domestic Violence Court in eight of the 13 judicial regions, the operation of a Unified Case Management and Administration System (SUMAC) for civil matters, the development of a curriculum for gender equity and a pilot project to incorporate volunteers and retired personnel to support some judicial services.
  • Over the past four years, fees have increased 18%.
  • Over the past four years, technology funding has increased 19%.
  • 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 will enable the courts to provide necessary technology to meet the demands of the public, but is not sufficient to make the planned enhancements.
  • The introduction of technologies has enabled the courts and others to provide and receive enhanced court services.

                    1. The technology has allowed attorneys and citizens to access information about the case hearing 
                        schedule and the designated courtroom.  The Automatic Order of Protections in Domestic
                        Violence Cases has expedited the issuing of protection order and maintains statistical information
                        about the number of petition and orders issued by the courts.

Steps Taken to Address Tough Economic Times

Staffing Levels and Operating Expenses: 

  • Over the past four years, the number of judges has increase 1%, the number of trial court staff has increased 8% and the number of central office staff has increased 8%; trial court operating expenses increased 9%.  In November, 2010, legislation was enacted to increase the amount of Supreme Court Judges from seven to nine in order to expedite the resolution of cases.  The increase in court and central office staff was required to improve the judicial service and enhance assistance to the judges.  Additional staff was also required for the implementation of new initiatives, such as the expansion of specialized courts, technological support services and projects to improve information management systems.
  • In the coming year, the number of judges and staff and the amount spent on trial court operating expenses will remain the same. 

Service Reductions:  In the coming year, the courts in Puerto Rico will delay filling vacancies in judicial support positions.  They are also reducing the amount of temporary employees, freezing reclassifications and the hiring of vacant positions and reducing private service contracts and consultants.

Efficiency Measures:  The courts of Puerto Rico have implemented and will continue to implement an electronic document management system, an enhanced case management system and a virtual web-based information center to provide public access to records.  In the coming year, they will implement e-payment of fines and fees, will update the electronic library system, will introduce videoconference technology to allow technical resources from the Forensic Science Institute to appear in court and to allow technical resources from the Diagnostic Clinic to appear in court, will extend the Unified Case Management Administration System (SUMAC) in civil matters to additional judicial regions, and will complete the For The Record (FTR) system in the Superior Court, and courtrooms for preliminary hearing and alimony cases.

Restructuring:  The Puerto Rican courts have reallocated judges and staff to districts based upon weighted caseload and have changed venue to share judicial workload.  To reduce operating costs, courthouses with a minimum workload have been closed and relocated.  The court has reengineered some work process to increase efficiency and expedite workflow.  This has been implemented specifically in the court clerk’s office.  Flexible work schedules have been implemented in the investigation unit to provide after hours services on nights and weekends.

Business Processes:  The Puerto Rican courts have implemented an enhanced caseflow management program, and have transitioned to digital recording of court proceedings.  The courts will in the coming year introduce remote videoconferencing of incarcerated defendants and use remote videoconferencing of detained juveniles.

Commissions:  The Coalition to Preserve Puerto Rico’s Justice System was formed to present a unified front at the Legislature for purposes of seeking/maintaining funding for the justice system to ensure access to justice.

The Puerto Rican courts are in a better position than in FY09 to provide access and timely justice.  The Judicial Branch has implemented projects to increase efficiency, to improve access to justice and work performance.  An intensive maintenance and improvement plan for the court’s building structure have been implemented.  The repairs have enhanced accessibility to the physically impaired, and the distribution of office space to provide for privacy and adequate office space.  Investments have also been made to provide for waiting areas and the implementation of security technology to guarantee the safety of employees and visitors.  In addition, citizen educational programs and plaintiff orientation have been implemented to improve access to justice.

Reports and Articles