ABA president says shrinking court budgets could hurt

Jessica M. Karmasek Oct. 12, 2011, 4:14pm


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Legal Newsline) - Newly elected American Bar Association President Wm. T. Robinson III says the continued slashing of state court budgets means justice may be denied to those who need it most.

Last month, the University of Kentucky College of Law and the Kentucky Law Journal hosted an invitation-only symposium on court funding in Lexington.

Bar leaders, state chief justices, policy makers, national organization leaders and scholars participated in the event, which focused on the impact of reductions in funding on the ability of the courts to meet their constitutional function and provide access to justice.

The symposium also honored the Kentucky Law Journal's 100th anniversary and its distinguished alumnus, Robinson.

Robinson, who became ABA president in August, is member-in-charge of the Florence, Ky., offices of Frost Brown Todd LLC, a regional law firm with offices in Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia and Indiana.

Since taking office, he has vowed to improve the underfunding crisis faced by many state courts.

"All of us must have and protect our right and our freedom to use courtrooms when we need to," Robinson told attendees.

"That courtroom must be open to protect families. That courtroom must be open to validate and protect contracts for business. That courtroom must be open to keep the wheels of justice turning. That courtroom must be open to defend our individual rights to prove again and again that we continue to be a free society. All of that takes more money... not less and less money for our courts."

According to the ABA's Task Force on Preservation of the Justice System, civil cases have been the hardest hit, including child custody, divorces, business lawsuits and employee compensation cases. Many have been put on hold because of shrinking court budgets.

"There is nothing more precious than our freedom and that comes from access to justice," Robinson said.

Lisa Rickard, president of the Institute for Legal Reform, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, also participated in the symposium.

The Institute for Legal Reform owns Legal Newsline.

Rickard suggested judiciaries create specialized courts, ease the process of discovery and show businesses that the courts will be more efficient.

"What business looks for is certainty, predictability and efficiency," she told attendees.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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