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Can Your Court Afford a Judge?

NCJ Number
State Court Journal Volume: 5 Issue: 3 Dated: (Summer 1981) Pages: 14-21
R W Page; A B Aikman; F G Miller
Date Published
This article reports the procedures and results from an independent evaluation of the financial impact of the creation of a new judicial position in the Orange County Superior Court (California).
Original estimates for the proposed position were cited at $433,430 per year by the county administrative office; the court itself estimated the new position to cost only $36,700. The higher calculation represents 'comprehensive costs,' based on the contested concept that noncourt agencies in the justice system use the addition of a judge to justify new positions within 2 to 4 years after a judicial position is created. Whether such a relationship exists in Orange County was investigated by interviewing the county clerk's, district attorney's, and public defender's office managers, as well as the sheriff's and probation department administrators and reviewing their records. Findings showed that, over a 6-year period, each unit except probation has increased following parallel trend lines independent of the number of judicial positions. The elements identified for determining the financial impact of adding a judicial position to the court included salaries and fringe benefits of judges, bailiffs, court clerks, and court reporters; costs of supplies and services for the new judge; and one-time expenditures for equipping a new courtroom as well as its annual upkeep costs. Other cost factors were the amortized cost per judge of the court facilities and overhead costs for agencies that support the court. Reductions included the $60,000 block grant for new judgeships and any fines, fees, and forfeitures directly attributable to the creation of a new judicial position. Including one-time costs, the study estimated that a new judgeship would cost $117,076 in the 1980-81 budget; excluding one-time costs, the estimate was $97,245. Tabular data are provided.