Judiciary warns of cutbacks to operations

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Chief Justice Katherine A. Maraman said the strategic plan describes the long-range objectives and goals for the island's court system.

The Guam Judiciary has warned that it may have to cut back on certain operations in order to make ends meet next fiscal year.

In a letter to Sen. Joe S. San Agustin, the legislature’s appropriations chairman, Chief Justice Katherine Maraman stated that although the Judiciary’s appropriation levels for fiscal year 2020 set forth in Bill 186-35 may be above last year’s, the Judiciary’s personnel costs continue to increase significantly and these expenses will increase through restoration of increments and higher benefit costs such as health insurance.

“The judiciary will live within its means and have a transparent record of doing so. But any unexpected circumstances such as a natural disaster or any operational changes that may impact our branch as a result of our interaction with the executive branch in 2020 will not be without further adverse consequences,” Maraman said.

If the FY2020 budget is passed as presented, Maraman said the following actions from the Judiciary effective Oct. 1 can be expected to mitigate any problems that may arise over the next 12 months:

* The Judiciary will continue to close its intake windows at Probation Services and the Clerk’s Offices at 4 p.m. and meritorious bonuses will continue to be frozen

* The Administrator of the Courts will be directed to not lease an employee parking lot and terminate the electronic monitoring contract when the initial funding runs out.

* The Judiciary will fund leases for its judicial storage facility, the Northern Court Satellite, Judiciary Education Center and the new probations building using local funds.

* The Judiciary will again terminate and reduce contract costs even at the cost of efficiency.

* The Judiciary will implement pay increments as mandated but will seek legislative support in this measure by including the following language: “The Judicial Branch shall pay employees entitled to increments in fiscal year 2019 prospectively beginning in the first pay period of fiscal year 2020 as follows: An employee who had an anniversary date during fiscal year 2019 and received an evaluation recommending an increase shall be entitled to the increment beginning in the first pay period of fiscal year 2020. The employee’s anniversary date for purposes of evaluation and determination of eligibility for an increment shall not change. The Judiciary shall implement payment of increments as funds become available.”

* The health insurance contract will have streamlined benefits to give access to basic medical and wellness services across the island and abroad to employees and their families.

* Except for critical positions, the Judiciary will freeze hiring in the first quarter of fiscal year 2020.

* Purchase of equipment requested for court security will be deferred until FY 2021.

Hamper

“As you know, the government’s fiscal situation continues to hamper court operations. Continued
reductions have limited expansion of our treatment courts, postponed necessary modernization of our technology, and delayed necessary replacement and repair of capital assets. We cannot take steps to implement other actions to resolving disputes in a shorter period of time such as adding a criminal case manager or preventing elder abuse by auditing guardianships,” Maraman said.

She added: “As we must do, we share the consequences of the government’s limited resources. We look forward to a time when we can do more to serve this island. In the meantime, we are grateful for restoration of some of our funding.”

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