Endnotes and Resources: Making the Pain of "Real People" Part of Court Budget Arguments


[1] In my first year of law school, my professors often reminded us that each of the appellate cases we read involved real people and, often, real pain. The lawyers among us have to remember that admonition.

[2] Consider the soup advertisements run frequently in 2011 in which women call a soup company’s chefs to tell them they now can fit into their jeans or dress. That’s the ad! No reference to calories, nutritional information, or price. Only sizzle! I have not seen sales figures, but I would be shocked if sales of that soup brand did not increase materially in 2011.

[3] An effective article in California focused on a staff member who was on maternity leave when she got her pink slip. Talking about her struggles—her former husband also was laid off so her support payments had ceased—effectively personalized the court’s loss by focusing on the staff member’s loss. The article included the following that helped explain why her layoff was important: “The layoffs . . . primarily affected the unheralded—and yet vital—personnel who comprise the judicial branch’s central nervous system. Staff like [the terminated staff member] do the paperwork at the courthouse, preparing the court calendars and minute orders relied upon by attorneys, and also helping the public understand the unfamiliar procedures of the justice system” (McEvoy, 2011).

[4] The National Center for State Courts’ Budget Resource Center reported in 2011 that court budgets in 32 states saw budget reductions in fiscal year 2010, and 28 states had budget reductions in FY 2011 (http://www.ncsc.org/brc).

[5] Some legislators and legislative staff also want to change the courts’ business model, but that is a topic for another day.

[6] Government accounting, which seems to have such a hard time looking at systemic costs rather than line items and the budgets of one agency at a time, significantly contributes to why this important argument seems so often to be ignored.

[7] “Asked where [California’s] state leaders should cut funding to help reduce the $25 billion budget deficit, 59 percent of registered voters [said] . . . ‘the courts and state judiciary.’ . . . Courts tied with prisons as the most popular budget targets” (Miller, 2011b).

[8] It also would help to mention in press releases and budget requests the thousands—in urban courts, hundreds of thousands—of people and businesses who visit the courthouse each year as litigants, witnesses, jurors, and interested parties seeking information about court cases. In state-funded systems in larger states, the numbers reach the millions.


Anderson, T. (2010). “Courts Sinking with Economy,” Los Angeles Daily News, March 21. http://www.dailynews.com/search/ci_14721661?IADID=Seach-www.dailynews.com

Axelrod, J. (2011). “Budget Cuts Are Slowing Down U.S. Courts,” CBS Evening News, October 2. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/10/02/eveningnews/main20114555.shtml

Baker, C. (2011). “Behind Budget Jargon, Numbers, Real Pain Lurks,” Capital Weekly (Sacramento, Calif.), December 8. http://www.capitolweekly.net/article.php?xid=106zgl1xzazx37p

Dolan, J. (2011). “California Criminal Database Poorly Maintained,” Los Angeles Times, July 17. http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jul/17/local/la-me-crime-data-20110717

Furillo, A. (2011). “Budget Cuts Likely to Mean Longer Lines, Slower Service at County Courthouses,” Sacramento Bee (California), July 12.

McEvoy, C. (2011). “Layoff Notice Comes at Bad Time for Mother of Three,” Los Angeles Daily Journal, December 28.

Miller, C. (2011a). “Business Group Joins Chorus on Court Cutbacks,” Recorder (San Francisco), November 11.

— (2011b). “Voters OK with Cuts to Courts,” Legal Pad, Blog, March 16. http://legalpad.typepad.com/my_weblog/2011/03/voters-ok-with-cuts-to-courts.html#more

Podgers, J. (2011). “O’Connor: Lawyers and Judges Need to Wake Up to Judicial Funding Threat,” ABA Journal, August 7. http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/oconnor_lawyers_judges_need_to_wake_up_to_judicial_funding_threat_prep_for_/

Schelzig, E. (2011). “States Shed Thousands of Public Employees,” Associated Press, December 19.

Schwartz, J. (2011). “Critics Say Budget Cuts for Courts Risk Rights,” New York Times, November 26.  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/27/us/budget-cuts-for-state-courts-risk-rights-critics-say.html?pagewanted=all

Skaggs, A., and M. da Silva (2011). “America’s Judiciary: Courting Disaster,” Los Angeles Times, July 8.

Task Force on Preservation of the Justice System (2011). Crisis in the Courts: Defining the Problem. Chicago: American Bar Association.