State/Local Funding

  • The Pennsylvania Judiciary is funded both by the state and by the local funding bodies. 
  • The state pays for the Appellate Courts, the Administrative Office of the Courts, trial court technology and for the salaries of trial and minor court judges.  The salaries of those judges’ support staff, and operating expenses and local courthouses and equipment are paid by local funding bodies.

State Revenue and Appropriations

  • Pennsylvania’s total state and federal grant appropriation of $300.5 million in FY12 increased to $310.4 million in FY13.  The state general fund appropriation increased from $298.9 million to $308.2 million; the percent of the state general fund appropriation allocated to the Judiciary increased by 3%.
  • Supplementing the amount shown above for FY 11-12 were revenues from the temporary surcharge on court filings (excluding summary traffic offenses) of $25 million. PA anticipates spending approximately $24.6 million from the Act 49 (2009) surcharge fees and $5 million from the dedicated Judicial Computer System account to supplement the FY 12-13 funds.  Additionally, in FY 11-12 and FY 12-13, the Judicial Computer System was appropriated $57,048,000 from its dedicated (restricted revenue) account to fund computer operations.  This account is funded from fines, fees, and costs and not state taxpayer funds.
  • Over the past four years, technology funding has decreased 7%.
  • Over the past four years, fees have increased by 100%.
  • The Judicial Branch budget situation over the next three fiscal years is expected to stay relatively the same.

Funding Principles for Judicial Administration

  • The Judiciary submits its proposed budget to the Governor for Executive Branch review and then directly to the Legislature for additional review.
  • The Judicial Branch has budget authority to manage and administer line item appropriations and to transfer funds between line items in most instances.
  • The FY13 budget enables the courts to provide for necessary technology to meet the demands of the public but revenues decline in future years.  
  • 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, and in this fiscal year, the number of judges and the number of central office staff has largely been static.

Compensation:  Over the past four years, the salaries of state court staff persons have been affected by a freeze, delays in increases, and/or caps on increases.  

Service Reductions:  Over the past four years, the Pennsylvania courts have delayed filling judicial vacancies and vacancies in judicial support positions.  Senior judge usage increased due to not filling judicial vacancies.  Because of statutory payment restrictions, some jurists have served gratis beyond the monthly allocation caps.

Efficiency Measures: 

  • The Pennsylvania courts have implemented an electronic document management system, and an enhanced case management system.  They have implemented e-citation by law enforcement agencies, e-payment of fines and fees and a virtual web-based information center to provide public access to court records.  In the coming year, they plan to implement e-filing.
  • Enhanced case management programs were completed since FY 08-09.  Magisterial District Judge System rewrite and enhancements were completed in December 2011.  The system now includes e-pay and limited e-filing of criminal complaints by police.  They have completed a dependency case management module as a component of the Common Pleas Criminal Case Management System in all counties in 2010.  They added new document management features to the appellate courts case management system in 2010.  They began piloting an e-filing system in the spring of 2012 for appellate courts, beginning with the Supreme Court.  They will extend capability to the other two appellate courts in coming months.  Completion of a state-wide management information system to allow counties to better manage problem solving courts and allow for the collection of uniform data is expected by the spring of 2013.

Restructuring:  The Pennsylvania courts plan in this fiscal year to consolidate a number of minor court districts, which will result in reallocating staff.  It also plans to review methodologies to right-size the number of trial court judges based upon weighted caseload.

Business Processes:  The Pennsylvania courts have implemented an enhanced case flow management program and have implemented videoconferencing of incarcerated defendants.

Centralization:  The Pennsylvania courts have implemented a centralized call center.  The center responds to questions from users of the various case management and web-based systems.   

The Pennsylvania courts are in a worse position than four years ago to provide access and timely justice.  They are “holding their own” despite increasing financial constrictions. 

Reports and Articles

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