Leaders needs to serve taxpayers

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 2, 2002

"The finger-pointing isn’t solving anything."

That statement, made by Montgomery District Attorney Ellen Brooks on Wednesday, is right on target in describing the political posturing taking place over the funding of jury trials in Alabama.

Ever since Chief Justice Roy Moore called a halt to all jury trials in civil court and limited criminal trials in criminal court – citing a lack of funding – the governor and the judge have been embattled in a high-profile debate over who’s to blame for the budget shortfalls.

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Siegelman cites a lack of fiscal responsibility, and the state’s finance director has said that the jury trials could be held today if the state court officials had spent their money more responsibly. He cited, specifically, the hire of 128 new employees and the discretionary raises given to 600 workers.

Moore, on the other hand, says the court system already has laid off 170 part-time workers and has cut travel, equipment and purchases to fall within its $122 million budget.

The dispute over the funding has reached a ridiculous point. To call a halt to our state’s justice system is a dangerous move, and obviously one designed to draw political attention in an election year. And, it’s the wrong move. Our justice system must continue to function; our citizens have the right to expect a quick and speedy trial. Our state taxpayers have the right to a government that functions effectively and efficiently.

Unfortunately, we’re getting neither in Alabama right now. The finger-pointing needs to go away. Yes, Moore was wrong in his decision to halt trials and make a political statement with our justice system. But two wrongs don’t make a right; and arguing about who’s to blame isn’t resolving the situation.

Our leaders – and that’s what a governor and a chief justice are – need to lead. They need to resolve this issue; to find a way to fund our court system – most likely by trimming other expenses from the court system’s budget – and they need to better serve the taxpayers of Alabama.  

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