By Office of Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu
In an informational briefing to the House Judiciary Committee, the State Judiciary presented details regarding current budget reductions and the impact on vital programs and services within the state’s judicial system. Testifying on behalf of the Judiciary were Tom Mick, Director of Policy and Planning, Judge Steven Alm of Project HOPE, Judge Karen Radius of Girls Court, Judge Michael Wilson of the Adult Drug Court, Judge Bode Uale of the Family Drug Court, Judge Robert Browning of the Juvenile Drug Court, Jasmine Mau-Mukai of the Children’s Justice Center and Carol Lee of the Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
In 2010, the Judiciary’s budget base was reduced by 7.6% or $11.5 million, and 79 positions or 4% of its permanent workers were eliminated. The current budget cuts calls for reductions to community outreach, legal aid and victim service organizations, including access to temporary restraining order (TRO) services and significant reductions in safety planning services and services to children exposed to domestic violence. In addition, the long term impact of budget reductions on rehabilitative programs such as the Oahu Drug Court could result in increased costs to incarcerate persons unable to enter treatment.
The impact of these budget cuts is being felt throughout the state, resulting in increased caseloads for Sex Offender and Domestic Violence Units and overcrowded docket calendars. To offset some of the reductions, the Judiciary is proposing an increase in certain traffic and administrative hearing fees. The Judiciary also noted that sustained budget reductions could result in increased crime rates, higher recidivism rates, prison and juvenile facility overcrowding and the loss of treatment and assistance programs.
"Despite the economic challenges, I want to do everything possible to ensure that important legal services are available for those in immediate need as well as the general public” said Chair Karamatsu. “This process demonstrates how cuts to individual programs can have adverse and unforeseeable consequences on every level of state government and the committee is going to explore every available option to address the unique challenges facing each part of our state."