State/Local Funding

  • The Texas Judiciary is primarily a locally funded court system. 
  • The state pays for the Appellate Courts and the Administrative Office of the Courts and for the salaries of trial court judges.  Trial court judge support staff, trial court clerical staff, trial court technology, trial court operating expenses, and local courthouses and equipment are paid by local funding bodies.

State Revenue and Appropriations

  • Total state and federal grant appropriation for the Texas Judiciary was reduced from $336.6 million in FY12 to $321.2 million in FY13.  The state general fund appropriation was reduced from $219.3 million to $191 million; the percent of the state general fund appropriation allocated to the Judiciary was reduced from 0.49% to 0.43%.
  • As a percentage of all state funds, the Judiciary accounted for 0.38% in FY11 and 0.34% in FY12.
  • 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 FY13 budget enables the courts to provide necessary technology to meet the demands of the public, but not to enhance that technology.  

                    1.  For the FY 2012-13 biennium, the Texas Office of Court Administration received only $50,000 per year in its capital budget for information technology.  This allows OCA to marginally support the state's 16 appellate courts, plus state judicial agencies, in the event their almost 900 computers and related equipment need to be repaired or replaced.  The OCA was also cut to two programmers to maintain OCA-supported software.  While the OCA can marginally support the courts at this level through the end of the current biennium, it cannot continue in the future without significant consequences to the Judiciary.

  • The introduction of technologies has not 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, the number of judges and central office staff has remained the same.  In the coming year, the number of judges and central office staff will continue to remain the same.

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

Service Reductions: 

  • Over the past four years, the Texas courts have delayed filling vacancies in the clerks’ offices and in judicial support positions.  They have reduced the use of retired judges. 
  • These service reductions have resulted in reduced service to the public, limited access to court services and increased delays and backlogs.

Efficiency Measures:  The Texas courts have implemented an enhanced case management system and electronic workflow.  In the coming year, they plan to implement e-filing, an electronic document management system, a virtual self-help center and a virtual web-based information center to provide public access to records. 

  • Business Processes:  The Texas courts have implemented and will continue to implement remote videoconferencing of interpreters for persons with limited English proficiency.
  • Centralization:  The Judiciary has implemented regionalized public defender services for capital murder cases.

The Texas courts are in a better position than in FY09 to provide access and timely justice, primarily due to improvements in technology.  They now have on-line court documents at the appellate courts and internal performance measurement at the Supreme Court.  Intermediate appellate courts now have deadlines on new expedited cases.

Reports and Articles

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