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April 4, 2014 – A panel of key legal stakeholders, including State Bar of Wisconsin President Patrick J. Fiedler, sat down today with Steve Walters, host of WisconsinEye’s Legally Speaking, to discuss “the largest state budget cut in court system history.” A common theme: cuts to the court system hurt Wisconsin's citizens.
Other panelists included Jeffery Kremers, chief judge of Milwaukee County Circuit Courts, Director of State Courts John Voelker and Sarah Diedrick-Kasdorf, deputy director of government affairs for the Wisconsin Counties Association. Watch today's "Legally Speaking" program, embedded within this article, by accepting WisconsinEye's terms.
The Wisconsin Court System, through the 2013-15 biennial budget, has been directed to lapse $11.8 million. This means that by the end of this budget cycle, the court will have to return some of the money that it had in its operating budget.
This is not a new concept for the court. In the last biennial budget it lapsed $17 million – although this lapse did not have as much of an impact because a majority of those funds were able to be returned. Under 2011 Wisconsin Act 10 – the 2011-13 biennial budget – court system personnel were compelled to contribute more to their fringe benefits, thus leaving the court with substantial savings. These savings brought the lapse down to $6 million, making this year’s biennial budget lapse a very significant cut in court funding.
In this video, Fiedler stresses that delays to the court system will affect all citizens, especially those who are tied up in civil cases.
“These cases have a tendency to languish and people get frustrated if it’s not deemed by them to be accessible,” Fiedler said.
But Fiedler added that the real problem might be that “people don’t think about the court system unless they need it.”