Judiciary seeks to fill critical vacancies

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Judiciary Administrator of Courts John Lizama, center, said their focus in the year 2020 is to fill critical vacancies within the judiciary branch and continue to fund its electronic program among other contractual services.

For three consecutive years, the Judiciary of Guam’s budget has been status quo and according to the third branch of government, they need to restore funding to support operations.

A budget of $35.8 million dollars is less money than they had last year, but according to the Judiciary of Guam, which sat before the legislature Tuesday morning to mull over their FY 2020 budget request, it is enough to support operations.

So what does their budget cover?

Judiciary Administrator of Courts John Lizama said their focus in the year 2020 is to fill critical vacancies within the judiciary branch and continue to fund its electronic program among other contractual services.

“Funding for much-needed technology upgrades to our network and our court security system. Funding for our jury stipends and defense. Funding for treatment in our specialty courts and funding to support the appointment of an eighth judge in the superior court of Guam,” Lizama said.

The Judiciary also indicated that hiring a new Judicial officer and staff would cost $403,000, an additional $5,000 more than foreseen in fiscal year 2019.

“The difference in our budget submission comes after what has essentially been three consecutive years of a status quo budget and the lowest of appropriations since 2014 and the Judiciary seeks to restore funding levels to support our operations in fiscal year 2020,” Lizama said.

It was noted during the budget hearing that personnel is the biggest cost foreseen by the Judiciary as it proposes to fill critical positions and reinstate the salary increments and merit bonuses.

According to the Judiciary, while there is currently a freeze, they have not stopped the administrative process of completing performance evaluations of all judiciary employees.

“Our managers remain diligent this whole year to make sure this is done so if re-instated we can apply that prospectively,” Lizama said.

The judiciary budget also covers contractual services, some of which could be hampered if not properly funded.

“We do have a number of purchases that need to be made as we reach the end of their life. Critical service would be hampered should we not proceed with the necessary purchase of hardware, software upgrades and maintenance to support our network,” Lizama said.

Senator Joe San Agustin, who presided over the budget hearing, said that although he can’t promise to fully fund the judiciary he is hopeful that senators can come as close as possible.

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