State/Local Funding

  • The Delaware Judiciary is a state funded system. 
  • The state pays for the salaries of judges, support staff and clerical staff and for trial court technology, operating expenses, local courthouses and equipment.

State Revenue and Appropriations

  • State general fund appropriations remained at essentially the same amount this year, with increases focused on rising personnel costs and other mandatory services offset by the transfer of $2.9 million for court-appointed conflict counsel outside of the Judiciary.  The dollar amount was reduced from $91.34 million in FY12 to $91.03 million in FY13.  The percent of state general funds allocated to the judiciary fell from 2.6% to 2.5% in FY13.
  • The Judicial Branch budget situation over the next three years is likely to improve.

Funding Principles for Judicial Administration

  • The Judicial Branch does not present its budget directly to the Legislature.
  • The Judiciary does not have the authority to move funds between line items.
  • The FY13 budget minimally enables the courts to provide necessary technology.  The courts struggle to address infrastructure improvements as well as programming enhancement needs.  They do not currently have funds to make needed enhancements.

Steps Taken to Address Tough Economic Times

Staffing Levels and Operating Expenses:  In this fiscal year, the number of judges and staff persons has increased (two new judges and 16 associated full-time staff were funded).  Besides these resources, minimal additional funding for new staffing resources was provided last year in the form of funding for casual/seasonal (temporary) resources. Funding for court operating expenses has declined by 10%.

Service Reductions:  Over the past four years, the Delaware courts have delayed filling vacancies in judicial support positions. 

Compensation:  Until last year, the salaries of judicial officers were frozen and the salaries of court staff were reduced (during one year) and frozen.  A salary reduction for judicial officers (for one year) was voluntary, with 100% participation.

Impact of Service and Compensation Reductions:  These service and compensation reductions have resulted in reduced service to the public, limited access to court services, and produced delays and backlogs in the disposition of cases.  

Efficiency Measures:  The Delaware courts have implemented e-filing, an enhanced case management system, and e-payment of fees and fines.  They have implemented a virtual self-help center and a virtual web-based information center to provide public access to certain court records.  They have enabled law enforcement to file e-citations.  Since FY 2009, more case information is available on-line.  Other efficiencies include streamlining operations and instituting centralized functions to promote efficiency and improve public contact responses; e.g., a family court statewide call center.

Restructuring:  The Delaware Judiciary has and will continue to consolidate courthouses, expand the use of subordinate judicial officers, reallocate staff, and use part-time and off-hours workers. 

Business Processes:  The courts have implemented and continue to implement an enhanced caseflow management program.  Videoconferencing for non-evidentiary hearings has been in place since the 1990s.

Centralization:  The Delaware courts have established a limited centralized call center (for family court cases) and have centralized collections processing and traffic citation processing.

The Delaware Judiciary is in a better position than a year ago to provide access and timely justice, but not better off than when the fiscal challenges arose in FY 2009. 

Reports and Articles

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