For someone who’s been vehemently campaigning for more money for judges ever since he took office, Chief Judge Flipman is pretty good at keeping a straight face when talking about “austerity measures” in the courts.
In today’s press release, he promises layoffs of “administrative and other non-operational personnel,” an astonishingly frank characterization of the court bureaucracy. Right on, Chief!
But we can’t share his touching faith that technology will transform the non-operational into the operational. How many times have we been summoned to court just to be handed a piece of paper that could just as well have been mailed? If they can’t even manage a postage stamp, it’s unlikely that anything will change in a “digitalized courthouse.”
The obvious solution is customer-supported public courts, just like listener-supported public radio, with periodic pledge drives. Here’s how it would work:
[Scene: Calendar day in Judge Hornbill’s courtroom]
Judge Hornbill: I’m very pleased to have Judge Bushmaster from part 96 here at the bench with me today to tell you about our March pledge drive and why our customers should support public courts. Welcome, Magnolia.
Judge Bushmaster: Why thank you, Bob, I’m so pleased to be here and I have wonderful news. For every dollar our customers pledge, we have a matching grant from the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association. And for a pledge of $100 or more, we’ll send you a free mug or tote bag featuring the faces of the justices of the First Department. While supplies last.
Judge Hornbill: It’s so important to support public courts. Can you imagine a system of justice without public courts? Well, neither can we. And for a pledge of $1000 or more, we’ll send you a romantic order of protection for two, good for a year.
Judge Bushmaster: So call in your pledge right away. What’s the phone number, Bob?
Judge Hornbill: We haven’t had a working phone in this courtroom since 1966, but customers can e-file their pledges. As soon as we get some computers.
Judge Bushmaster: I’m sure all these little glitches will be resolved by 2066. Meanwhile, let’s all listen to this 911 tape while our volunteer court officers pass around baskets for your contributions.