Key criminal justice stakeholders have formed a partnership to emphasize that the promise of delivering justice can only be met if all parts of the justice system are adequately funded.
Vol. 84, No. 3, March 2011
At the Feb. 4 Board of Governors meeting, I reported on the first-ever Legal Stakeholders Summit, which convened at the State Bar Center on Jan. 31. Our goal at the January summit was to offer a forum at which many key criminal justice stakeholders could compare experiences and find common ground as we prepare for one of the most challenging budget cycles in Wisconsin history. The summit accomplished that goal and went beyond it, forming an effective working relationship among the partners and affirming the importance of coming together to develop and present a single and cohesive message. This summit not only succeeded as an individual event but also established what we hope to be a long-term expanding partnership that will continue to fight for adequate funding of the criminal justice system as a whole
In an age of tight budgets at all levels of government, we know that every part of Wisconsin’s justice system – courts, prosecutors, public defenders, and the rest – will face budgetary challenges in Wisconsin’s 2011-13 biennial budget cycle. The budget reflects the priorities we establish as a society; our priority as legal stakeholders is to speak with a single voice to emphasize the promise of delivering justice can only be met if all parts of the system are adequately funded.
The legal stakeholders all agreed that inadequate funding of any single part of the criminal justice system will affect all the other components of the system, thereby compromising Wisconsin’s entire justice system. In making this point, the group emphasized a fundamental reality: the justice system exists to protect public safety and safeguard the constitutional rights of all Wisconsin residents. Because these are core functions for state and local governments, budgetary support of the justice system is essential to government as a whole.
I am delighted that the State Bar has brought these stakeholders together and will continue to work within this coalition, and I appreciate the participation of everyone who attended. Chief Justice Abrahamson did an excellent job opening the summit and establishing its tone and emphasis. She reminded us that the effectiveness of our action depends on our recognizing that our sometimes disparate emphases and interests find powerful unity in support of a justice system that serves all the people of Wisconsin. I have confidence that together this group can clarify the constitutional imperative of adequately funding all aspects of Wisconsin’s justice system, not only to the legislature, but to anyone in the public who would question the system’s importance.