Budget cuts force reductions in Jackson County Circuit Court

A new round of budget cuts will result in significant reductions in court staff, programs and services to the Jackson County Circuit Court, the county's trial court administrator says.

The state's 2011-13 budget for courts was $1.5 million short of what was needed to maintain services at the existing level. Dealing with that will result in nine additional court closure days, a 50 percent reduction in bailiff staffing and more reductions starting Oct. 1, Jim Adams said.

"We've done everything imaginable not to have this happen," Adams said. "But the Legislature had a very, very difficult situation with loss of revenue and all state agencies have incurred budget reductions."

Chief Justice Paul DeMuniz ordered the full-day closure of Oregon's state courts on nine Fridays during the biennium, most of which are near holiday dates such as Thanksgiving, Memorial Day and Martin Luther King weekends.

Jackson County's court staff will join in the mandatory state closure dates, Adams said, adding he and Jackson County Circuit Court presiding Judge Phillip Arnold made additional adjustments.

Adams said he has already cut a portion of funding for the treatment court, and reduced staffing hours for criminal court, civil court and mail room clerks working in the Justice Building at 100 S. Oakdale Ave., Medford.

Adams said while every effort was made to minimize adverse impacts on the public, protect core court services and provide a sustainable workload for staff, the cuts will create a certain level of hardship for many.

"The judges, staff and I are keenly aware of the adverse impacts of court closures and the loss of vital programs affecting public safety and the health and welfare of Jackson County residents who seek the protection or enforcement of their rights in our court," Adams said.

Remaining staff will be required to take 10 to 14 unpaid furlough days in 2011-13. Nine of those days wil coincide with current holiday closure dates. The other 1-5 days will be "floating," he said.

Effective Oct. 1, bailiff services will be reduced by 50 percent, with two bailiffs laid off. Pretrial release services will also be cut in half and staff members reassigned. A civil file clerk position will be eliminated, which will affect the timely retrieval and filing of court documents, Adams said.

The circuit court's public civil service windows and phone systems remain shuttered during the noon hour, a change that was implemented on Sept. 1. However, access in and out of the Justice Building will remain open during the noon hour, he added.

The 2011 Legislature faced a $3.5 billion shortfall. That resulted in the Jackson County Circuit Court's 2011-13 budget being cut by about 12.8 percent. The impacts of the 2011-13 reductions were exacerbated by budget cuts made in the 2009-11 biennium, Adams said.

"As severe as the cuts are in Jackson County, we were able to keep the doors open more than other courts in Oregon," he said.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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