Utah

State/Local Funding

  • The Utah Judiciary is primarily a state funded system. 
  • In its appellate, general jurisdiction and juvenile courts, the state pays the salaries of judges, support staff and clerical staff.  The state pays for all technology, all operating costs, and court facilities for all state courts.  
  • Local Justice Courts are funded by individual municipalities.  Relatively few of the Justice courts have experienced any significant budget reductions.

State Revenue and Appropriations

  • Utah’s total state and federal grant appropriation was increased from $128.8 million in FY12 to $132.6 million in FY13.  The state general fund appropriation increased from $105.5 million to $108.7 million; the percent of the state general fund appropriation allocated to the Judiciary fell from 2.2% to 2.1%.
  • Over the past three years, court fees increased by varying amounts, depending on the fee, for an average increase of approximately 50%.
  • 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 court budget is essentially two line items: (1) operations, and (2) facilities.  The Judicial Council has the ability to move and administer funds appropriated within these line items.
  • The Utah courts have the authority to carry forward funds to the next fiscal year.
  • The FY13 budget will enable the courts to provide for necessary technology to meet the demands of the public.  The on-going budget was protected during the budget reductions.  One time funding was moved from other budgets into Information Technology to help accelerate the move to the electronic record.  The Judiciary has revisited all expenditures and contracts and has made significant adjustments in order to maximize available funds.  The courts have sufficient funding to enable them to make needed enhancements in the coming year.
  • The introduction of technologies has enabled the courts and others to provide and receive enhanced court services.  The introduction of technology has been predicated on increased system efficiency and improved public service. Remote filing and access to all court records improves services for all, as does e-payments.  For example, the use of state-wide e-warrants saves time for law enforcement, prosecution, social services, attorney general's staff, and judges. Mandatory e-filing of civil cases (effective 4/1/13) will allow for further downsizing and redeployment of clerks’ office staff.

Steps Taken to Address Tough Economic Times

Staffing Levels and Operating Expenses:  Over the past four years, the number of judges has increased by 1% while the number of trial court staff has been reduced by 9% and the number of central office staff has been reduced by 15%; trial court operating expenses were reduced by 4%.  The budget for central office staff is expected to increase by 3% in the coming year to fund a state wide self service center in the state law library. 

Compensation:  With the exception of a 1% cost of living increase in FY2013, salaries for judges and staff have been frozen.

Service Reductions:  Over the past four years, the Utah courts have had staff layoffs and have delayed filling judicial vacancies and vacancies in the clerks’ offices and in judicial support positions. 

Efficiency Measures:  The Utah courts have implemented efficiency measures (e.g., electronic record) and alternate business practices (e.g., moving to an all digital record in place of court reporters) in order to avoid service reduction.  They have increased the use of senior judges to cover judicial vacancies, and to address any backlogs.  They have initiated case management improvements to avert delay.  Performance measures indicate improved system performance over FY 2008.

Restructuring:  The Utah courts have reallocated judges to districts based upon a weighted caseload, have changed jurisdiction to share judicial workload, have expanded the jurisdiction and use of subordinate judicial officers, consolidated clerk management positions and have reallocated staff. 

  • The courts have moved significant judicial resources across districts to deal with heavy dockets and delay in other districts.  By rule, the Utah Judiciary changed the filing of all small claims actions to Justice Courts to help reduce clerical work in the general jurisdiction courts.  Clerical reorganization and the move to team management have resulted in the elimination of the traditional hierarchical structure in the clerks’ offices. Vacancies have and will be moved to areas of the state where the need is greater.
  • As part of clerical restructuring, Utah has moved to competency based advancement and has instituted an online training program with 150 training modules.  This technology is now being more widely deployed to other orientation and training needs.
  • A centralized transcript management system was instituted in conjunction with the move to an all digital recording environment, significantly reducing transcript delivery time, staff time, and costs.

Business Processes:  The Utah courts have implemented an enhanced caseflow management program, have implemented “in-court updating” for docket entries and sentencing orders and have transitioned to digital recording of court proceedings.  The courts use remote audio conferencing of interpreters for persons with limited English proficiency.

Outsourcing:  The Utah courts outsource electronic filing.  It is based on a model in which private sector vendors, if certified by the Administrative Office of the Courts, market to attorney e-filing services which interface with the AOC case management system.

Centralization:  The Utah courts have a centralized payable center and centralized collections processing.  E-payments are available for all levels of courts, including juvenile.  E-payments are processed as a banking transaction, eliminating cash receipting and reconciliation by the clerks staff.  Juror summoning and qualification have long been centralized.

The Utah courts are in a better position than in FY09 to provide access and timely justice.  This has been accomplished by changing their business model, accelerating implementation of the electronic record, taking reductions where direct services were not impacted or where caseloads reductions warranted (juvenile probation), moving judicial and staff resources to where the need was greatest, and putting increased emphasis on management information and case management practices.  These steps have resulted in improved performance, despite downsizing.

The Utah courts are trying to position their operations to their allocated budget and reduced staffing levels.  When and if the budget situation improves, additional funds would be used primarily for addressing future growth or new initiatives, rather than restoring cuts. 

Reports and Articles

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