Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson’s experience making clear points within a strict time limit as an appellate lawyer was on display Monday: When talking with Texas senators about the court’s next budget, Jefferson finished a mere moment before a bell rang to end his testimony, eliciting laughter from the audience.
Jefferson told members of the Senate Finance Committee on Feb. 4 that, due to budget cuts over the past few legislative sessions, the court cut funding for security for justices, lowered its costs for printing and research and employs fewer staffers. Yet the court is more efficient in clearing cases from its docket because of a new case management system that allows justices to work from anywhere, he said.
The Legislative Budget Board recommends the court receive funding of $60.04 million for the 2014-15 biennium, which is an 18.7 percent decrease from the 2012-13 budget.
Jefferson said currently, 95 percent of the court’s budget pays for personnel like staff attorneys.
“We fear any additional cuts would cut into that personnel, and they are essential,” said Jefferson.
The court asked for an additional $5.14 million, which includes $4.6 million for civil legal aid and $539,000 to increase the pay of staff attorneys and other court personnel, hire a new rules attorney and fund travel for Supreme Court committees, among other things.
Jefferson also told the committee that the court supports a separate recommendation to increase judicial salaries, and he asked committee members not to cut a general-revenue appropriation — the $4.6 million in the court’s additional budget request — for civil legal aid services.
— Angela Morris