Message From Chief Justice Saufley
LEIGH I. SAUFLEY
Supreme Judicial Court
In 2009, the State of Maine Judicial Branch faced significant challenges: with court filings the highest they have been in years, and budget cuts causing staffing reductions, we were asked to do more with less resources. But with the creativity, talent, and hard of employees and judges, the Branch rose to the challenge.
Consolidation of Clerks’ offices continued. Twenty-six separate clerks’ offices have been consolidated into 13. In January 2009 we undertook a major pilot project consolidating the criminal dockets in the District and Superior Courts in Cumberland County. The consolidation had a number of benefits, not the least of which is that criminal cases in Cumberland County are resolved more quickly than in any other judicial region of the state. This pilot was expanded to Bangor late in 2009.
In 2009, a great deal of effort went into improving court facilities. The Houlton Courthouse renovation was complete in April, and the Penobscot Judicial Center opened in Bangor in November. Both buildings will provide safer, more energy efficient and technologically updated facilities for the benefit of the public for years to come.
We saw the beginning of a giant step forward in improving technology in criminal justice matters, with the award of almost $2 million in grants. Technology that supports law enforcement, prosecution, the defense, and the courts will have one seamless flow of information. Public safety will be substantially improved.
We have improved security by shifting resources to security whenever possible. But security is still not adequately funded. Understaffing in other areas continues and backlogs grow, continuing to hurt the public. However, with consolidations and improved facilities, we have taken several significant steps forward in 2009. If we can avoid further budget cuts, in Fiscal Year 11, we will be ready with a court system focused on our core mission with safer more efficient courthouses, greater staff efficiencies, and improved technology.