Issue: State Court Access to Federal Funding Streams
State courts have had difficulty in accessing federal funding streams.
State courts support increased access to federal funding streams for those programs created to respond to federal initiatives and implement federal mandates on state courts. Court leaders have also supported adding language that would permit their participation in the planning and funding of federal programs that affect their operations and workloads. (CCJ/COSCA Resolution 05-A-17)
There are three related issues – (1) coordination and collaboration on the planning and distribution of funds at the state level, (2) court eligibility to apply for grants, and (3) designated portions of federal grants for state courts.
(1) The Court Security Improvement Act of 2007 (Public Law 110-177) amended the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, 42 USC 3702, and authorized the U. S. Attorney General to require, as appropriate, state and local governments to demonstrate that they have consulted with the chief judicial officer of highest court and considered the needs of state courts in developing applications and distributing funds.
(2) On 9/12/96, the General Counsel for the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) issued a memorandum entitled “Applications for Funds by Units of local Government in Louisiana”. The interpretation of this memorandum has determined that courts are also not “units of local government” for purposes of applying directly for Department of Justice discretionary grants.
(3) The Services*Training*Officers*Prosecutors (STOP) grant program is the only Department of Justice administered grant program in which a percentage of funds are designated for courts. While some states have had difficulty in accessing these funds, it is a model concept for other grant programs.
This issue was raised with members of the Obama transition team and subsequently with then Assistant Attorney General for OJP Laurie Robinson and Jim Burch, then Acting Director of the Bureaus of Justice Assistance. They asked the General Counsel’s to review the above referenced memorandum and interpretation. Courts were allowed to apply directly for the Byrne competitive grant program funds that were authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Efforts have been made to amend the definition of “unit of local government” as part of the reauthorization of the Department of Justice. As grant programs are authorized and reauthorized, efforts are made to increase court access. The House was expected to introduce DOJ reauthorization in 2010. Suggested language for increased court access to federal funds has been submitted to Senate and House Judiciary Committees for inclusion in the Department of Justice reauthorization legislation when it is considered.
The Justice for All Reauthorization Act (S.3842), introduced by Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in the 111th Congress, would re-establish a strategic planning process for the disbursal of Byrne JAG funds. This would require that state courts and other components of the criminal justice system be brought together before funding is distributed in the state. On 2/1/11, Senator Leahy reintroduced his Justice for All legislation (S. 250). S. 250 was approved by the Senate Judiciary on 6/21/12. The consultation provision remained in the bill with a one-year period before states would have to comply.
The legislation, Justice for All Reauthorization Act of 2013 (S. 822), was reintroduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Leahy on 4/25/13 (S. 822). S. 822 was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on 10/31/13. The legislation died at the end of the 113th Congress. Justice for All bill was introduced on 2/24/16 (S 2577/HR 4602). On 6/16/16, S 2577 passed the full Senate. The Justice for all Bill was signed by the President on 12/16/16 making PL 114-324.