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Letters to the 107th Congress

July 15, 2002

Honorable Ernest F. Hollings
Chair, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State and Judiciary
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Chairman:

We are writing to urge your subcommittee to appropriate $13.55 million for the State Justice Institute (SJI) for FY 2003. SJI is the only entity specifically created by Congress to award grants to improve the quality of justice in state courts. Without continued federal funding, SJI will be forced to terminate operations.

While Congress from time-to-time earmarks certain grants for specific state-court improvement projects, the State Justice Institute assures that government money is spent on the most urgent court projects. Over the years, SJI has helped prioritize spending, provided oversight and coordination, and prevented duplication by sharing the success of one state's innovations with every state court system as well as the federal courts. It has accomplished this in a variety of ways, including maintaining information clearinghouses to assure that effective new judicial approaches in one state are shared with other courts nationwide; establishing national resource centers where judges and court staff may obtain expert guidance; and convening national educational programs to speed the transfer of solutions to problems confronting courts across the country.

The terrorism attacks of September 11 have indeed changed the budgeting priorities in Congress. We appreciate the fiscal constraints under which your subcommittee must operate and understand the priority you assign to allocating sufficient funds to those entities under the subcommittee's jurisdiction that are most involved in anti-terrorism activities. We believe that these very circumstances vigorously argue in favor of adequate FY 2003 funding for SJI.

The third branch of government, like the other two, must be able to respond to terrorism. The courts of our nation are every bit as vulnerable to terrorism as our airports, our Executive Branch agencies and our legislatures. Not only do they need to be physically secure against terrorist attacks and have contingency operation plans, our courts also need to be able to cope with additional workloads and new legal dilemmas resulting from the actions taken by the other branches to protect this country against future terrorism. Now, more than ever, they need to be able to turn to SJI. By strengthening our state court system, federally funded SJI grants strengthen our entire justice system.

SJI has a 15-year track record of effectively and efficiently providing critical assistance to our courts. Restoring SJI's funding to the very modest sum of $13.5 million - the level of funding provided by Congress in 1996 - is a fiscally responsible move that will provide appropriate federal assistance to this nation's judicial system at a time when our country continues to focus its resources on responding to terrorism.

Sincerely,

Robert D. Evans
Director, Governmental Affairs Office

cc: Members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State, and Judiciary

107th Congress Letters Home

AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION
Governmental Affairs Office
740 Fifteenth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005
ph: 202-662-1760
fx: 202-662-1762

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