A local judge says Douglas County District Court employees will not be laid off but will be furloughed one day a month under a contingency plan he is forming in response to possible cuts in the state Judicial Department's budget.
Mike Malone, Douglas County administrative district judge, said the local court is already understaffed and cannot afford to lay anyone off.
"I truly believe that if we were fully staffed and we're not that given our increasing caseload, we could not voluntarily suggest any position to be eliminated," Malone said. "We believe that the required services of our district . . . could not be met. And I suppose a second part of that is that if too many more job descriptions are amended to include additional duties, what we'll end up with is a situation where employees who are already doing the jobs of two clerks will just resign."
THE JUDGE said two positions currently are unfilled, a half-time employee will leave in April or May, an employee soon will take maternity leave and two employees have applied for jobs elsewhere.
Malone met Monday with the three other local judges and the department supervisors of the Seventh Judicial District, which is comprised of Douglas County, to discuss the contingency plan. He was meeting this afternoon with other employees to review the plan.
The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday ordered administrative judges in the state's 31 judicial districts to prepare such plans in the face of possible budget cuts.
To deal with the budget problems, the court instructed the judges in a memorandum mailed Wednesday to take five steps to reduce expenditures:
Prepare plans for permanent reductions in non-judicial personnel and a priority system for implementing those layoffs.
Prepare a furlough plan for all non-judicial personnel, with an anticipated maximum two days a month layoff, costing those involved an 8.3 percent reduction in their pay.
TAKE IMMEDIATE steps to eliminate all services now provided to attorneys and the public that are not required by law or absolutely essential to the operation of the court system.
Review duties of court services personnel to eliminate those not considered essential. ``Probation and referral to community services should be curtailed if adequate supervision is not available,'' said a court summary.
Require administrative judges in Crawford, Labette, Montgomery, Cowley and Neosho counties, all of which have two county courthouses, to submit plans to ``eliminate or severely curtail the dual system of courts in those counties.''
In an interview today, Malone said local officials plan to offer a proposal in which non-judicial employees would be furloughed one day a month instead of two. Under the proposal, he said, non-judicial offices would be closed to the public two days a month. However, half of the district's non-judicial employees would work in the offices each day they're closed.
HE SAID that would allow the employees to catch up on their office duties, such as filing documents and copying documents to microfilm.
It also would result in a 4.15 percent pay reduction for employees instead of an 8.3 percent reduction.
"In my opinion, these are not these people's hobbies, they're their jobs," he said. "An 8 percent cut would be disastrous to some of these people."
Malone stressed that the proposal is merely a contingency plan at this point and has neither been finalized nor enacted. He said he would ask the Supreme Court to make furlough programs uniform statewide and would offer the local plan as a model.
Malone said he plans to curtail some services now provided to attorneys and the public. When asked to give an example, Malone said: "Looking up something for a member of the public or an attorney that they could look up on their own."
The plan also would make attorneys responsibile for typing some court documents.
Malone proposes to decrease the amount of information that probation officers must provide in background investigations for local defendants about to be sentenced. An example of the information that no longer will be collected is the defendant's family history.
ALSO, MALONE said he plans to lengthen from four weeks to five weeks the deadline for a background check, or "pre-sentence investigation," to be completed.
Under Malone's plan, judges' offices would stay open. He said that although judges cannot conduct court hearings without a court reporter, they can conduct some pre-trial conferences, possibly hear uncontested divorce cases and perform other administrative work.
Supreme Court justices last week said the statewide contingency plans could reduce the number of people placed on probation because of too few probation officers being available to supervise them.
That could add to the population of state prisons and county jails.
Deep cuts imposed on the court system in recent years have created severe problems, the justices said, and they will get worse under expected new cuts that legislators say are dictated by the state's poor financial condition.
The court sought a Fiscal Year 1992 budget of $53.4 million. Gov. Joan Finney trimmed it to $50.5 million, a 5.3 percent reduction, and the Senate Ways and Means Committee further cut it to $48.7 million.