The financial partnership between Wisconsin counties and the state court system provides a justice system with a high rate of return on investment for the people of Wisconsin, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson told members of the Wisconsin Counties Association on Wednesday.
Abrahamson spoke at the association’s 2013 Legislative Exchange in Madison, where county officials gathered to discuss the important issues facing counties around the state.
According to Abrahamson, the state invests less than one penny of every state tax dollar to support the judicial branch of government, including trial courts in all 72 counties and two levels of appellate courts, Abrahamson said.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s 2013-15 state budget request would help ensure a continued return on investment for the people of Wisconsin by boosting financial assistance to the counties and increasing compensation to attract and retain quality judges and staff, she said.
Abrahamson highlighted the innovation of the Treatment Alternatives and Diversion program, which enables counties to establish and operate programs based on alternatives to jail time for criminal offenders who abuse alcohol or illegal substances.
A recent study sponsored by the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance, the state Department of Corrections and the state Department of Health Services found that every $1 invested in TAD yields benefits of $1.93 to the criminal justice system.
Abrahamson also highlighted:
• Technological innovations by the Consolidated Court Automation Programs, such as the expansion of electronic filing and availability of online forms for litigants, attorneys and jurors.
• Evidenced-based practices, which enhance public safety and reduce recidivism.
• Problem-solving treatment court programs – one of the evidence-based practices being used by the courts that address addictive behaviors that are often at the root of criminal activity.
In addition to encouraging further investment in the court system, Abrahamson urged the state to help address the growing numbers of pro se litigants. Increasingly, people are representing themselves without counsel in family law cases and small claims court, as well as in other civil cases because they cannot afford an attorney.