State/Local Funding

  • The Tennessee Judiciary is funded by a mix of state and local funding. 
  • The state pays for the Appellate Courts and the Administrative Office of the Courts and for the salaries of trial court judges and for the judges’ support staff. The state pays for technology equipment for the trial courts.  Trial court clerical staff, local courthouses and equipment are paid by local funding bodies.

State Revenue and Appropriations

  • Tennessee’s total state and federal grant appropriation was increased from $126.2 million in FY12 to $129.6 million in FY13.  The state general fund appropriation increased from $120.2 million to $123.9 million; the percent of the state general fund appropriation allocated to the Judiciary remained at 0.4%.
  • The FY12/13 budget includes $2 million in new funding to provide interpreter services to persons with limited English proficiency who have a matter before the courts.
  • Over the past four years, technology funding decreased by 50%.
  • The budget situation in the next three years is likely to stay relatively the same.

Funding Principles for Judicial Administration

  • The Judicial Branch does not present the Judiciary’s budget request directly to the Legislative body without prior approval by the Executive Branch. 
  • The Judicial Branch does have budget authority to manage and administer appropriated funds without restrictions of detailed budget line items.  They do not have to adhere to strict line item budgets; however, some restrictions do exist, based on allotment purposes.
  • The FY13 budget does not enable the courts to provide necessary technology to meet the demands of the public.  The public would like e-filing and a variety of online services; the Judiciary does not have the required funding.
  • The FY13 budget does have some reserve funding to make some of the planned technology enhancements deemed necessary and a priority by the Supreme Court.
  • The introduction of technologies has enabled the courts and others to provide and receive enhanced court services.  An online claims entry system for appointed counsel enables attorneys to submit claims for reimbursement from the indigent defense fund.

Steps Taken to Address Tough Economic Times

Staffing Levels and Operating Costs:  Over the past four years, while the number of judges has remained the same, the number of trial court staff has decreased 25% and the number of central office staff has decreased 17%.  Trial court operating expenses have remained the same.  In the coming year, the number of judges and staff and the amount spent on operating costs will remain the same.

Compensation:  Over the past four years, salaries of court staff have been frozen.

Service Reductions:  Over the past four years, the courts have had staff layoffs.

Efficiency Measures:  The Tennessee courts have implemented a virtual self-help center.  In the coming year, they plan to implement an enhanced case management system, a virtual web-based information center to provide public access to records and e-citations by law enforcement agencies.

Business Processes:  The Tennessee courts have transitioned to digital recording of court proceedings.  In the coming year, they plan to implement remote videoconferencing of incarcerated defendants and remote videoconferencing of interpreters for persons with limited English proficiency. 

The Tennessee courts are in a better position than in FY09 to provide access and timely justice.  The Supreme Court has implemented an Access to Justice program that provides additional programs and resources to the public.

If additional funds are restored, the Tennessee courts would use the funds to help restore some of the deep cuts in technology.  Most of their budget cuts are considered permanent.

Reports and Articles

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