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Archive for Monday, March 15, 2010

Upcoming furloughs concern Douglas County judge

Douglas County District Judge Robert Fairchild, pictured here in a 2009 file photo, is concerned about upcoming court closures due to state budget problems.

Douglas County District Judge Robert Fairchild, pictured here in a 2009 file photo, is concerned about upcoming court closures due to state budget problems.

March 15, 2010

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Court furloughs concern Douglas County judge

Extra court closures in coming weeks are problematic and inappropriate, according to Chief Douglas County District Court Judge Robert Fairchild. Enlarge video

Extra court closures in coming weeks are problematic and inappropriate, according to Chief Douglas County District Court Judge Robert Fairchild.

"It's certainly better than having weeks off at a time, but it's going to cause us trouble," he said.

Late Friday, the Kansas Supreme Court issued an order requiring all state courts to shut down for four Fridays in April and May because of state budget problems. All court staff, including 38 workers in Douglas County, will be required to take unpaid leaves on April 9, 16 and 23, and May 7.

Fairchild said it will lead to a backlog of paperwork, missed court dates and general confusion. Jurors will have longer weekends, probation officers won’t be able to conduct surveillance and no one will be at the court to accept payments.

"It's very sad," he said. "The courts are a branch of government and a very important branch of government and that branch of government's going to be shut down for four days and that's pretty inexcusable."

The courts have taken several steps to reduce the impact of the state's severe economic situation:

• A hiring freeze went into effect in December 2008, leaving about 100 vacancies in courts across the state.

• Nearly 200 temporary employees were laid off and their positions eliminated, increasing the workload for other court employees.

• An emergency surcharge was placed on court filings last year.

• The court successfully applied for an $800,000 federal stimulus grant.

• Judges took a 5 percent pay cut through June.

With salaries making up 98 percent of the state court budget, the Kansas Supreme Court said the closures are now necessary because there's little else to cut.

Judges will be at the courthouses to handle emergency matters during the planned court closures.

Comments

Glenda LaRue 4 years, 6 months ago

And I dont like that christmas isnt twice a year! Darn shame I say.

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somebodynew 4 years, 6 months ago

Well if it is not such a big deal for either of you two, how about YOU give up a day's pay a week from your jobs (assuming you even have one) and donate it to help balance the budget??? Oh, and that is after no pay raises for years, no cost of living adjustments, and the fact that you are probably doing 2 or 3 peoples work because of unfilled positions.

It just riles me that as soon as there is a budget problem, the first place people look for savings is on the backs of the lowest paid, overworked people. But then they want to b*tch if they need something and "god forbid" have to wait a bit.

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somebodynew 4 years, 6 months ago

Oh, I forgot - - I am NOT a court employee so this particular cut does not directly affect me.

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somebodynew 4 years, 6 months ago

Well that sounds good oneeye, but what are they supposed to do with 4 days and no money to do anything???? Find a second job, so they can pay their bills???

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puddleglum 4 years, 6 months ago

if Offered this to my employees, they would so happy, then a week later, they would complain that they have to work 4 days a week, and would want to go to 3-day work weeks

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Steve Jacob 4 years, 6 months ago

I have said this before, if every arrested person got together and went to trial instead of plea guilty, it would shut the whole system down.

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SouthWestKs 4 years, 6 months ago

Most trials last 3 days, so how will having Friday off effect the court, very little.. Also why are they making every body take off Friday?? Why not split the crew, half off on Tuesday & half off on Thursday.. Oh, that would take planning!! Also I did the four day work week for about a year & make it.. So quit your whining!!

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cowboy 4 years, 6 months ago

Having watched the wheels of justice a bit due to one of my kids missteps they could cut court hours in half if they were just a bit efficient. each case has multiple appearances which accomplish nothing other than meeting hearing requirements. every body lines up , the attorneys all show up , and the cases get multiple hearing dates. Reading of charges , preliminary , continuance to review evidence , preliminary or waiving preliminary , trial setting , pretrial . Most of these cases are very small potatoes. Why not set up a fast track option. Let the defense / defendant , sit down with the prosecutors and work out a deal at the beginning , no strings attached. I would bet that 90% of the cases could be taken care of with one meeting.

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Stephanie Anderson 4 years, 6 months ago

Budget problems hurt everyone, not just the court. Social services are cut continually, schools are facing closure, etc. This judge still has his job and life will go on. Sure things might be a little hectic the following Monday, but people have dealt with worse situations. That being said, I think it's crap that the judges have to be available for emergencies but aren't getting paid on those days. Is there something in place to compensate if they are needed for an emergency?

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classclown 4 years, 6 months ago

somebodynew (anonymous) says…

Well if it is not such a big deal for either of you two, how about YOU give up a day's pay a week from your jobs (assuming you even have one) and donate it to help balance the budget??? Oh, and that is after no pay raises for years, no cost of living adjustments, and the fact that you are probably doing 2 or 3 peoples work because of unfilled positions.

============================================

Everything you just described applies to me and I work for a private company. Sorry, but it's hard for me to sympathize with people working in the public sector when it's been happening to those in the private sector for years. Those that have been lucky enough to keep their jobs that is.

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cowboy 4 years, 6 months ago

Take your furlough and be happy you have a job. talk to any of us self employed folks in most any service trade and you'll find business down 30-50% for those who have survived at all. I know its tough but is taking a big hit this year and last.

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avoice 4 years, 6 months ago

Cowboy has a very good idea.

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David Roberts 4 years, 6 months ago

"Judges will be at the courthouses to handle emergency matters during the planned court closures...."

The article seems to just refer to hourly court employees, right? I assume the judges receive a salary and are still expected to show up--despite the 5% pay cut. That's not fun, but I assume they welcome a free day to catch up on paperwork. Still--wouldn't hourly employees be getting a 9.3% pay cut (4 unpaid days out of 43).

I hope KS can get our financial house in order. Hey JW, how about some brave reporting on the Federal government's misleading allegations that the economy is in recovery? 9.7% unemployment? Nope, try 21.6%. CPI @ 2%? Try 6%. National debt 13+ Trillion? Sure, if you don't count the IOU's that are sitting in the Social Security Trust Fund- try $50-70 Trillion (and this comes from the government's own Comptroller General. In short, you've got a real opportunity here JW. Are you up for it?

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georgiahawk 4 years, 6 months ago

Let's privatize the courts! That should solve everything! Except for the justice thing, but we will just have to readjust our priorities. The government obviously cannot handle this justice thing efficiently, it is time to step aside and let the Blackwaters of the world save us!

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SnakeFist 4 years, 6 months ago

georgiahawk: Absolutely correct: get government out of the justice business, and turn it over to the free market. Surely the pursuit of profit will result in better justice; we could even sell "justice insurance" (no pre-existing justice conditions, please)!

Seriously, I thought lowering taxes was supposed to give people more money to spend and turn the economy around. Apparently the people affected by furloughs will have less money to spend. Just another unintended effect of conservative so-called "common sense".

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Jcjayhawk1 4 years, 6 months ago

This is an easy fix. Legalize Marijuana, tax it, and create millions and millions of revenue. It gives farmers (who are in desperate need) another crop to plant.

It's a no brainer.

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cowboy 4 years, 6 months ago

Consumer , don't you have vacation time ? Use it. Self employed folks work their tails off to make it , they pay all their own benefits , they take a vacation they don't get paid , you hit a slow time you get no unemployment , the gov't employee however has paid vacation , paid sick time , unemployment insurance , steady paycheck , retirement , and on and on and on benefits. Take your lumps and be thankful you're working.

OR Improve the efficiency of your albatross court system so you can cut the number of hearings , transactions , thus saving us all a bunch of tax money and reducing the need for so many court employees , and reducing the need to furlough your bureaucratic butts.

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Jcjayhawk1 4 years, 6 months ago

"Improve the efficiency of your albatross court system so you can cut the number of hearings , transactions , thus saving us all a bunch of tax money and reducing the need for so many court employees , and reducing the need to furlough your bureaucratic butts." cowboy

Well put. Get rid of the non-violent drug "criminals" namely Marijuana users.

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poppygirl 4 years, 6 months ago

I highly doubt that you are able during these 4 furloughed day's to use any accumulated Vacation time instead so that your pay is not affected. The whole idea is to reduce the overall payroll budget for these pay periods. However, if losing 4 days of pay a year causes a financial hardship than you are living beyond your means to begin with.

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igby 4 years, 6 months ago

They're really not needed anyway. Catch and release and then catch again and then release again until they kill someone. What's a few missed Fridays going to matter to the public safety?

We spend billions of dollars every year on these courts that are a cake walk for criminals and job security for white trash bureaucrats that are self serving to their own political agenda.

When you let scumbag lawyers that are already bought and paid for lying SOB'es get appointed to run a branch of government you get what you deserve. Nothing!

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Laura Wilson 4 years, 6 months ago

So, if there's an emergency hearing--criminal, child welfare, whatever--who comes in? Yes, the judges are salaried and can come in anyway, but who else will need to be brought in? Bailiffs? Court reporters? Who's going to answer the judge's phone? Who will pull any needed files and records? So, in the end you're going to have to have a bunch of people there anyway because you know there will be emergencies on each of those Fridays.

What concerns me is that Fridays are answer days for limited civil cases and our court is run so poorly I bet they forget to change that on the summons and they'll end up with a long line of angry people waiting to file answers each Friday. Or they'll decide that instead of making it a Thursday, they'll just push all answer dates till the first available Friday in May giving defendants weeks extra to avoid their lawsuits.

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georgiahawk 4 years, 6 months ago

Snakefirst, "justice insurance"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Brilliant! This will be the next economic boom and will save the insurance companies! Then to keep the money coming they can sell justice derivatives!

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kugrad2003 4 years, 6 months ago

ladyonehill -

Before you make such idiotic comments, why don't you make sure that you have your facts straight. Putting employees on furlough means that there won't be any non-judicial employees working for the District Court on those days. There will be no court reporters, no bailiffs, no administrative assistants - the judges will be the only employees on those days.

As far as the limited civil docket on Fridays, those dates are being pushed to Tuesdays on the following week. There are statutes that govern when the hearings have to be set.

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HogJiver 4 years, 6 months ago

The golf courses should be busy on Fridays..

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igby 4 years, 6 months ago

Consumer!: Lol, just trying to get a rise out of all the bleeding hearts. Don't really care one way or the other!

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SouthWestKs 4 years, 6 months ago

consumer1,

I worked 32 hours a week because we were told that was going to be the work week.. If we did not like it do not let the door hit you in the backside.. I,ve been there & done that.. Your time is coming.. As I said Get a Life & quit Whining..

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