State/Local Funding

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

State Revenue and Appropriations

  • Washington’s total state and federal grant appropriation increased from $137.9 million in FY12 to $143.4 million in FY13.  The state general fund appropriation decreased from $111.4 million to $110.8 million; the percent of the state general fund appropriation allocated to the Judiciary remained at 0.5%.
  • The change in the State General Fund (SGF) appropriation is solely due to one-time fund swaps, whereby the appropriation for the SGF was reduced and the appropriation for state special funds was increased by a like amount.  This occurred in four out of seven state judicial branch agencies.
  • The amounts noted represent appropriations to the state judicial branch.  There are a few executive branch agencies that allocate state funds to local courts, most notably the Department of Social and Health Services Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration (DSHS/JRA).  Total annual funds distributed by DSHS/JRA to local courts are approximately $17,000,000 (not included in the figures above).
  • The FY13 budget includes funding for a statewide superior court case management system.  The appropriation is from a dedicated information technology funding source.
  • Over the past four years, technology funding has increased 23%.
  • 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 state Judicial Branch budget is submitted through the Executive to the Legislature.  The Executive Branch cannot amend the Judicial Branch budget request.
  • The Judicial Branch does have budget authority to manage and administer appropriated funds without restrictions of detailed budget line items.  However, the Legislature does have the authority to create budget provisos directing the Judicial Branch to expend the appropriation solely for expressed purposes.  Often these provisos are one-time in nature or project specific.
  • The FY13 budget enables the courts to provide for and enhance some, but not all necessary technology to meet the demands of the public. 
  • 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, the number of judges has remained the same.  Central office staff has increased in the area of information technology.

Compensation:  Over the past four years, at the state level, the Legislature has implemented furloughs and salary reductions for non-judicial staff (all but judges).  In addition, across-the-board budget reductions have also resulted in salary freezes (beyond the furlough and salary reductions).  At the local level, budget reductions have resulted in salary freezes and furloughs for non-judicial staff.

Service Reductions: 

  • Over the past four years, at the state level, across-the-board budget reductions have resulted in staff layoffs and delayed hiring.  At the local level, budget reductions have resulted in reduced hours of operation, staff layoffs and delays in filling vacancies.
  • These service reductions have resulted in reduced service to the public, limited access to court services and increased delays and backlogs. 

Efficiency Measures:  The Washington courts have implemented and will continue to implement e-citations by law enforcement agencies.  In the coming year, they plan to implement e-filing, an electronic document management system, an enhanced case management system, and electronic workflow. 

Business Processes:  The Washington courts plan to implement in the coming year an enhanced caseflow management program, the transition to digital recording of court proceedings and remote videoconferencing of interpreters for persons with limited English proficiency.

Outsourcing:  The Washington courts have outsourced the collection of fines and the provision of language access services.

Centralization:  Washington currently has five judicial districts that allow for efficient case processing as well as other combined functions. 

Washington has established a commission to address court funding.

The Washington courts are in a worse position than in FY09 to provide access and timely justice, primarily due to improvements in technology.  If the budget situation improves, in those areas where quality services are being provided at lower costs, additional monies will not be used to automatically restore cuts on a one-to-one basis.

Reports and Articles

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