This week brings the annual Family Law Institute for Georgia family law attorneys. During this three day seminar attorneys and judges get together and get to know each other in a casual environment, rather than the traditional adversarial role. One of the speakers on the first day, Judge Steve Jones from Athens, Georgia raised a particular concern about the fiscal year 2010budget that I thought should be shared with the community at large. He noted that the fiscal year 2010 budget (as approved by the Georgia House of Representatives and Senate) provided for several major adjustments including an overall reduction in funding for Superior Courts by nearly five percent with significant reductions in senior judge usage, law clerks, operating expenses, and on and on. While I recognize that the current economic times mean that cuts are inevitably going to be required, this is a particularly alarming concern.
While these budget cuts are obviously going to negatively affect the Superior Court system, what is perhaps as alarming is that the number of cases going though our court system continues to substantially increase. According to the Georgia Administrative Office of the Courts, Planning and Research Division, the number of domestic relations cases, and the overall court docket,continues to increase – up over six percent since last year. As you can imagine, the decline in the economy has resulted in an increase in divorces (due to financial problems), parents seeking child support and alimony modifications, increased “deadbeat” parent cases, and of course more foreclosure confirmation and general debt collection cases.
So what does this mean to you? With increasing demand and less funding, I think it is fair to say that we will face greater court backlog, more crowded court calendars, and potentially even a decrease in the effectiveness and efficiency of the courts.