Although the Minnesota Courts say they need 20 more judges and 270 more staffers, Chief Justice Lorie Gildea is asking only that the courts be “held harmless” in the upcoming budget cycle. Speaker of the Minnesota House Kurt Zellers has said that the judiciary will be held harmless.
The ABA Journal blog reports that “the Minnesota Court of Appeals, in recent months, reversed felony convictions for violent crimes in three separate cases because the court was incapable of providing speedy hearings.” The story argues that the funding problem is not limited to the courts, that public defense is also underfunded and the unavailability of public defenders is causing delays.
Given the facts offered by the court and the reporters, it may be too late to hold the court harmless, it may be time to undo some of the harm before more cases are dismissed for Constitutional violations, or civil cases cannot be timely heard.
The legislature had asked the court to offer up a scenario of what the courts would look like with a 20% cut. It is hard to imagine the courts could keep processing cases with fewer resources. Justice is inherently inefficient. If everyone is to get an opportunity to be heard, that takes time, and it takes people. If the courts are to fulfill their essential function, then they must be properly funded to provide people with a forum for real dispute resolution and a real opportunity to be heard.
John L. Fossum of Fossum Law Office, LLC is an MSBA Board certified criminal law specialist and has offices in Northfield and Bloomington, Minnesota. If you have a criminal case in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Shakopee, Hastings, Red Wing, Faribault, Owatonna, Waseca, Rochester, Albert Lea, Austin, or elsewhere in Minnesota, contact Fossum Law Office, LLC and criminal defense attorney John L. Fossum, for help.