Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon August 12, 2013

With Austerity Measures, PA Has Staved Off Court Closures

Tight state and local budgets have forced many states to close their courthouses or reduce operating hours, but in Pennsylvania, a number of austerity measures have staved off closures.
    
Lynn Marks, a court reform advocate, said it’s no small feat that Pennsylvania’s judicial system has weathered a recession without closures.

"Court funding is really a tricky issue," Marks said. "I mean, no one really thinks about the courts until they need them but when you have a case involving your family or your livelihood you know you want courts to be open and available.

In Pennsylvania, austerity measures have included what amounts to a hiring freeze for statewide court staff and judges.

A spokesman for the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts said the system has had to dip into its computer fund to make up for operational costs not covered in the state funding, and he said ultimately, that will have to be replenished.

He also pointed out the state is one of at least 27 states, according to a national report, that has raised court fees to help pay for operations.

That surcharge is set to sunset at the end of next year, though it has been renewed once before.