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Md. Judiciary seeks 4.4% budget boost in fiscal 2023

“Resources are needed to maintain the capacity of our proven network of drug courts, juvenile drug courts, mental health courts, and veterans’ courts,” says Court of Appeals Chief Judge Joseph Getty in his budget request. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

The Maryland Judiciary seeks $695.5 million in fiscal year 2023 – a 4.4% increase from the $666.2 million appropriated for the judicial branch this fiscal year, which ends June 30.

The budget request includes $624.7 million from the state’s general fund, a 6.5% increase from the $586.5 million appropriation for the current year.

About 83.6% percent of the Judiciary’s proposed increase from the general fund is attributable to a requested $32 million rise in salaries, wages and fringe benefits. The budget request calls for a slight increase in authorized positions, to 4,102.75 from 4,068.

Court of Appeals Chief Judge Joseph M. Getty, a former Maryland state legislator, is expected to defend the Judiciary’s request at hearings in coming weeks before subcommittees of the Senate Budget & Taxation and House Appropriations committees.

“The Judiciary works assiduously to maintain and expand the resources and services available to the people of Maryland to resolve issues outside of litigation, to meet the unique needs of families, to support our veterans, and to assist those challenged by drug addiction,” Getty wrote in a letter to committee leaders last month.

“Resources are needed to maintain the capacity of our proven network of drug courts, juvenile drug courts, mental health courts, and veterans’ courts,” Getty added. “This budget submission further includes operating funds needed to expand court programs statewide, including problem solving courts, family services, court interpretation and translation, access to justice and self-help services, and alternative dispute resolution. These programs are the manner which people in Maryland interact directly with the Maryland court system.”

The Judiciary’s budget request is independent of the budget Gov. Larry Hogan proposed Jan. 19 for executive branch agencies in fiscal 2023, which begins July 1. The Maryland Constitution bars the governor from altering the Judiciary’s proposed budget – but the General Assembly can.

In his Dec. 22 letter to legislators, Getty made reference to the Judiciary’s efforts since March 2020 to stanch the spread of COVID-19, steps which have included suspending jury trials and holding other court proceedings remotely.

Five days after his letter, Getty ordered that jury trials be suspended from Dec. 29 through Feb. 8 amid the emergence of COVID-19’s omicron variant. He has since extended the jury trial suspension through March 6.

“Although the past year and a half has been challenging, the Maryland Judiciary remains a national model for implementing creative ways to continue to serve the public,” Getty wrote in the letter.

“I have been especially impressed to see our courts utilize remote technology to continue to provide the high level of service we all expect,” he added. “Innovative remote technologies were not only used to continue to move cases but allowed the resolution of cases through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR); problem-solving courts continued to support our most vulnerable Marylanders; and civil legal assistance continued to be provided to self-represented litigants.”

Under the Judiciary’s funding request, the Court of Appeals’ budget for next fiscal year would increase to $14.7 million from $14.1 this year. The high court received $12.2 million in fiscal 2021.

The state’s intermediate court, the Court of Special Appeals, would have its budget increase to $15.1 million from $14.1 million this fiscal year. The appellate court received $13.4 million in fiscal 2021.

Baltimore and Maryland’s 23 counties pay to maintain circuit courts but not the judges’ and clerks’ offices in their jurisdictions. The Judiciary’s fiscal 2023 budget would provide $84.5 million for the salaries, wages and fringe benefits of the circuit court judges and their staff, an $11.4 million increase from this year.

The proposed budget would also provide $145.5 million to the clerks’ offices at the circuit courts, a $5.3 million increase from this year’s figure of $140.2 million.

The number of authorized positions in the clerks’ offices would rise to 1,476 from 1,471.

The Maryland District Courts’ budget would rise $11.3 million, to $234 million from $222.7 million this fiscal year. The number of authorized positions would rise to 1,609 from 1,586.5.

The Administrative Office of the Courts’ budget would climb to $104.8 million from $100.9 million this fiscal year.

Judicial salaries are set by statute.

Getty is paid $215,433, while the six other Court of Appeals judges are each paid $196,433.

Court of Special Appeals Chief Judge Matthew J. Fader is paid $186,633, while the 14 other Court of Special Appeals judges are each paid $183,633.

Circuit Court judges are paid $174,433.

District Court Chief Judge John P. Morrissey is paid $183,633, while other District Court judges are paid $161,333.