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Pennsylvania's Legal and Financial Woes

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11/06/10

This week, he changed his tune and announced that the judges would indeed be paid, as per the state's constitution. The court will now cover another $600,000 in salaries. The problem, however, is that the state is already facing a $17 million deficit for the fiscal year. Without this approval, the judges would likely have not been sworn in.



Judge Castille went a step further. He explained that the deficits were not due to irresponsible spending or from the court's failure to ''publicly account for its spending'', but rather, the deficits are directly linked to underfunding over the past several years. ''These deficits are beyond anything the judiciary can save its way out of'', Judge Castille said.

It appeared, at least initially, that the six vacancies were a compromise, considering there are currently twenty openings throughout the state. Governor Edward Rendell and Judge Castille agreed to keep those seats empty and would only fill those most crucial and only after the two had agreed on the exceptions. That didn't happen and the governor's office made the fillings anyway. Judge Castille called the move ''disrespectful of the judiciary branch'' and reiterated in his press release that no one was consulted before the nominations were made. He then publicly requested the governor's office to make no changes to the court's budgets. This means this week's election, including that of a new governor for Pennsylvania, will inherit the deficit and the problem. The judge's request is moot. This means it will be top priority for the incoming governor, and one he or she might not have anticipated before now.

This problem only highlights the ongoing problems throughout the legal profession. With more law students coming to a hard reality that there are fewer positions after graduation, along with local municipalities and states reining in their own respective budgets, this is a prime example of how the dominoes are falling.

Governor Rendell, who is a Democrat, has dodged the proverbial bullet. Pennsylvania's state law prohibits its governors to only two consecutive four year terms. Adding a bit of flavor to the dynamics of this controversy is the possibility - and some say the likelihood - of a Republican stepping up to the plate after two terms of a Democrat governor.

The bottom line, however, is that there is now at least a reduction in the shortage of judges throughout the state and regardless of the politics involved, that should help with the heaviest caseloads located in areas around Pennsylvania.


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