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Justice and safety at risk, Moon warns


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POSTED: Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chief Justice Ronald Moon said that if the judiciary's budget is cut again, there could be “;increased concerns regarding public safety and delayed access to justice.”;

“;The judiciary is already at the stage where lack of resources is affecting public safety and the administration of justice,”; Moon said in a prepared text in his final State of the Judiciary speech yesterday to the Legislature. Moon said he is committed to helping the state cope with its budget shortfall, but added the steps already taken to reduce spending are leading to “;serious consequences to our citizenry.”;

He said the cutbacks come when demands on the courts are growing. Because of financial strains, domestic violence has increased with requests for protective orders rising 12 percent in 2009 to 5,095 from 4,532 in 2008.

He added, “;The judiciary will not be able to withstand the devastating effects of any further cuts to its budget this season.”;

Last year, the judiciary eliminated 79 vacant positions; cut salaries for state judges and justices, saving $11.5 million; and implemented two furlough days a month that close all courts statewide and save $4.8 million this year.

“;Trials will take longer and are already being set further down the road simply due to the shortened workweek,”; Moon said.

He said the branch also cut contracts for treatment services that, if further reduced, would lead to increased domestic violence, higher recidivism rates, prison overcrowding and increased concerns over public safety.

Moon did discuss some bright spots in the state court system, including the success of Girls Court, the breadth of the court interpreter program and the opening of the Kapolei Court Complex this spring.

Sen. Brian Taniguchi, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he felt it was a good use of Moon's speech to explain why certain programs are needed in the administration of justice.

With almost 17 years leading the Hawaii Supreme Court, Moon, the longest-serving chief justice since statehood, will step down when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70 in September.