Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court gave a warning Wednesday that the state’s judicial system has been cut to the bone. During her annual State of the Judiciary address before both the House and Senate, Chief Justice Jean Toal said that the system is $11.5 million behind.
(Toal’s warning MP3 10:29)
Toal said that if the poor funding continues, terms of court will have to be eliminated.
Toal said she has already cut out travel expenses for judges. She said she warned law clerks last fall that their positions may be cut if funding doesn’t improve. Toal said the judicial system has implemented a hiring freeze and judges who have lost their secretaries must share one with someone else. She says that her department has tried to control backlogs but that further cuts would create more of a problem.
Toal says lawmakers need to change the system by which the judiciary system is funded. She says even though the judiciary system is an entire branch of government, she is forced to compete for funding in a scrum of government agencies, and the system’ funding is pulled away from other agencies.
One immediate option Toal offered is to increase filing fees for lawsuits, even doubling them if necessary.
Toal said the social order of the state is at stake. She said gangs are on the increase and must be controlled. She told lawmakers that they knew she was not a whiner. She said that she has stretched resources as much as she can.