Thursday, September 30, 2010

Judges Being Asked to Take Unpaid Furloughs

If you haven't noticed, the nation's facing a bit of an economic crisis.  As a result, state's like Connecticut have been tightening their belts.  The Hartford Courant reports that nearly all of the state's 55,000 employees took at least 3 of the 7 unpaid days they have been required to take between 2009 and June 30, 2011.   I say almost because 26 Superior, Appellate and Supreme Court jurists said no to the furloughs. 

Connecticut State Representative Zeke Zalaski has an offer they can't refuse.  Zalaski argues that if these judges don't take a furlough, they shouldn't get a reappointment.  The Courant quotes Zalaksi as such:  "I understand we have a separation of powers in our state Constitution, but the legislature does have the power of reappointment. Let's tie their reappointment to whether or not they take furlough days or take unpaid time off." What's important to remember that the judges were asked to take furlough days retroactively or repay the state.  They were not ordered to do so.  The question remains "is such an order constitutional?"  Damn that separation of powers.

Publications like the Connecticut Post argue that judges should take the furlough.  After all, they are state employees and "no more important than any other hard-working state employee."  As a practicing attorney, I have to disagree. This is a narrow view of the issue.   Constitutional concerns aside, my objection is a more practical one.

Let's be frank, judges are more important than many state employees.  If somebody takes a day off at the DMV info desk, chances are someone else can step up to the counter.  A judge takes a day off and a multitude of people are put in disarray including public defenders, private attorneys, prosecutors, and the general public .  Cases are continued, dockets get even more crowded and more work is created for everyone.  The savings from the furlough will be moot. What's your opinion?


Irene C. Olszewski, Esq. said...

"A judge takes a day off and a multitude of people are put in disarray including public defenders, private attorneys, prosecutors, and the general public . Cases are continued, dockets get even more crowded and more work is created for everyone. The savings from the furlough will be moot. What's your opinion?"

As an attorney, I concur.

Cliff Tuttle said...

Postponing cases (which is what happens when the judges who are scheduled to try them are furloughed) is an excellent way to increase the cost of the court system all the way down the line. Do you know the meaning of the word "interactive" boys and girls?

Cliff Tuttle
Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk

Rechtsanwalt Wien said...

Well, I think judges do need a break sometimes. A short vacation would do but never lay them off. Yet they have to be organized enough so as not to postpone cases. Judges are smart people, I'm sure they can sort things out. In the same way, representing lawyers should be aware enough about this.

Anonymous said...

To be quite honest, I have the upmost respect for all judges. Having said that, no one judge is irreplaceable. With sufficient notice, any judge may have a fellow justice fill in for them in the event of an absence. Taking furlough days voluntarily shows support for the judicial staff that work to help the judge run a smooth courtroom. It's a sign of solidarity in the workplace (which is rather a dying art nowadays)and signifies that the judge supports the legislature that creates the laws that they work to uphold. And if a judge really cannot be replaced, he can always come to work on his furlough day, without the pay.