So suddenly the Fulton County Courts cannot function, thanks to a huge planned budget cut. But how were they functioning before, with violent felons and repeat offenders getting a free stroll out the door for a variety of reasons? This is a scene playing out across the country:
Georgia’s biggest court system warned Wednesday that a 2010 Fulton County proposal that cuts $53 million from the judicial budget could force them to shut down the courthouse, jeopardize death penalty cases and slash as many as 1,000 jobs.
Fulton County’s judicial leaders declared an “economic state of emergency” and warned that the cuts, which amount to about a fourth of Fulton County’s judicial budget, would lead to drastic changes at the Fulton County Jail, the sheriff’s office along with prosecutors, judges and public defenders.
“This is not something you can adjust to,” said Doris Downs, the county’s chief superior court judge. “This is going to dismantle the justice system.”
The proposed cuts, which were released last week, are part of a spending plan that would slash the county’s funding by $148.2 million in 2010. Downs and other judicial leaders said the cuts came as a surprise to them and urged commissioners to rethink the spending plan before it plunges the legal system into a “crisis.” . . .
Among the possible aftershocks, said Downs, is a more aggressive early release program to lower jail expenses.
Not so fast.
If judges feel they must circumvent justice for even more victims, they had better allow the public to see precisely how many victims are being denied justice already, through failures to prosecute offenders or sentence them properly, and then let the public decide where resources should be cut. It’s their money. And their safety.
If the courts want the public to support their efforts to prevent these budget cuts, they must start having a conversation with the public.
The sanctimonious anti-incarceration activists who call themselves journalists are howling that the real emergency is that we must find more more money to spend on death penalty defendants. Or else the most horrible thing will happen: murderers won’t get phalanxes of silk stocking lawyers jetted in, all expenses paid, to bloviate about nothing for months on end while making a mockery of the notion of truth in justice.
This is a crisis manufactured by the defense bar. This is about defense lawyers taking away the public’s right to decide whether or not to try people for death by spending all their money on the defense of one man, then crying poor, stomping their feet, and demanding that all defendants get as many lawyers as the last defendant.
They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this anymore. Where does it say that defendants deserve teams of expensive private lawyers, rather than public defenders? The public gets public prosecutors on a shoestring: why do certain criminals fly first class on our dime? None of this has anything to do with “fair trials” or “the right to a defense”: it is the defense bar pillaging the system to force legislation by other means — the destruction of death penalty trials.
And no matter what you think of the death penalty, don’t think they’ll stop there: life without parole is the next thing in their sights, once death penalty trials are priced out of existence.
Why have we permitted jury selection to bloat into weeks-long parades of experts? Why has the right to an attorney morphed into the right to six private activist lawyers jetted in to game the system with frivolous inanities as earnest journalists fancying themselves “speaking truth to power” lovingly cover the spectacle?
And, meanwhile, how many cases end up not being prosecuted at all because of such charades?
Before the courts simply inform the public that they will have to accept more violent criminals walking because the defense bar went on a bender, they must speak up about the real costs and pressures on the system. They must open their books. And they must finally stand up to the dysfunction they know is ruling the Clerk of Court’s Office and other parts of the system.
Everybody knows which things waste money and which people have no business representing the justice system. If the public is going to be asked to take yet another hit, they at least deserve an honest conversation in the process.