Each year, the Idaho Supreme Court works with the Legislature and Governor’s Office to fund projects that support the Court’s mission to provide access to justice through the timely, fair and impartial resolution of cases. The items here are among the Court’s priorities for fiscal year 2023 (July 1, 2022 – June 30, 2023).
Trial Court Administration
For FY2023, the Idaho Supreme Court requests an ongoing General Fund appropriation for one Deputy Trial Court Administrator in each judicial district. The General Fund appropriation necessary to support this request is $899,800.
Idaho Code 1-801 through 1-808 establishes seven judicial districts, each consisting of multiple counties. Each judicial district has an administrative district judge and a trial court administrator (TCA) who are, together, responsible for the administration of court business within the district as established by the Constitution, state statute and the inherent power of the court.
The work of Idaho’s TCAs is both legally complex and time-intensive. Even before the additional demands of the pandemic, it became clear that a single person cannot accomplish all of the necessary tasks including work in each county within a district. The Deputy TCA position would assist each TCA with the overall operational management of the courts.
Fourth District Judicial Needs
For FY2023, the Idaho Supreme Court requests ongoing General Fund appropriation for one new district judge and an accompanying court reporter, to be chambered in Elmore County, and two new magistrate judges to be chambered in Ada County. The FY2022 General Fund appropriation necessary to support this request is $549,500, which includes $194,040 for the district judge, $69,114 for the court reporter, and $128,743 for each magistrate judge. This amount is for nine months, as each position’s start date would correspond with the county fiscal year. Thereafter, the funding would need to be annualized. At current salaries, the total annualized cost for these positions would be $694,086.
These positions will help address several needs. Magistrate judges elected in Boise and Valley counties and an Idaho Court of Appeals judge help preside over certain cases in Ada County due to its high caseloads — in FY2021, the Fourth Judicial District magistrate judges averaged 1,628 cases each. The district is attempting to address need through innovative solutions such as a warrant court. The volume of administrative work in the Fourth District also means its Administrative District Judge cannot carry a full traditional caseload, reducing available district judge resources.. The Fourth District would also like to expand its treatment courts in response to need, but cannot do so without additional judicial support.
For FY2023, the Court requests an ongoing appropriation to support language access services in the Third, Fourth and Sixth judicial districts, each of which face additional needs due to local demand. The FY2023 General Fund appropriation necessary to support this request is $105,000.
Idaho’s courts provide funding for treatment services for treatment court participants or services that are not able to be funded through either private insurance or Medicaid. This funding is provided through both a General Fund appropriation and through the Substance Abuse Treatment dedicated fund (SUD).
Over the last year, the state has increased reimbursement rates for some treatment services beyond the levels used to estimate the courts’ planned costs. The Idaho Supreme Court works to maintain parity in rates to ensure court clients have access to treatment. However, these changes have resulted in a variance between planned and actual costs, and the Court does not have spending authority in all cases to accomplish this.
For FY2023, the Idaho Supreme Court requests an ongoing increase in spending authority in SUD appropriations of $548,400 for residential and recovery support services and $209,900 for telehealth services.
In addition, the Court has adopted new Best Practice Standards for Treatment Courts that if followed, will reduce subsequent substance abuse and recidivism among participants and improve their outcomes. The estimated costs of delivering treatment at levels consistent with these evidence-based standards are significantly greater than what is currently appropriated. For FY2023, the Court requests a $400,000 spending authority increase in SUD to align with the standards.
Family, Domestic Violence & Treatment Courts
The Drug Court, Mental Health Court, Family Court Services Fund supports a number of court programs and services across the state including treatment courts, domestic violence courts, and family court services. For FY2023, the Court requests a $2 million increase in spending authority in this fund to improve and enhance services in several areas. It is the Court’s intent to serve more individuals and families, promote efficacy, and implement quality assurance strategies focused on best practices.
The Court has adopted a three-year plan to improve direct services to families, expand domestic violence courts and improve treatment court operation and treatment services. Among other challenges, there is a far greater need for direct family court services than available funding can address. Domestic violence courts are yet to be established in two of Idaho’s seven judicial districts. Ultimately, better serving individuals in these court programs will reduce recidivism, decrease substance dependence and instances of domestic violence, and reduce conflict within families.
Both the SUD and Drug Court funds have available revenue that would support this requested spending authority.
The Idaho Supreme Court requests an ongoing General Fund appropriation for four additional positions to manage both new and growing responsibilities.
The FY2023 General Fund appropriation necessary to support this request totals $407,000, including $82,100 for a Security Officer, $90,000 for a Fixed Asset Management Specialist, $118,500 for a Senior Accountant and $116,400 for a Human Resources Specialist, Principal.
The Supreme Court courthouse recently gained security improvements including a single public access point with an X-ray machine and magnetometer. This access point is currently staffed by Idaho State Police. ISP has committed to providing ongoing trooper support for the building in FY2023. However, while ISP troopers provide security in court hearings and watch people in and around the building, a POST-certified level position is not needed to monitor the X-ray machine. In order to have the security service without unnecessarily increasing costs, the Supreme Court is seeking a single non-POST certified Security Officer.
Fixed Asset Management
The Judicial Branch maintains a significant number of state assets distributed in each county courthouse. However, asset management is currently performed by staff with primary roles in other areas. A Fixed Asset Management Specialist will coordinate with all 44 counties to ensure safeguarding of court-issued assets, accuracy of inventory records and status, and compliance with court policies and procedures.
The Administrative Office’s Finance Division serves as a support division that accounts, reports, and processes all transactions of the Idaho Judicial Branch. Over the last 10 years, the Court has experienced growth increasing the number of transactions. A Senior Accountant is now needed to help address the workload. While other state agencies maintain an average ratio of financial staff to overall budget of 15.19%, the Court’s accounting staff is at 8.11%.
The number of judges and employees within the Idaho Judicial Branch has increased. Adding a Human Resources Specialist, Principal, will help the HR team deliver on strategic initiatives related to leadership development, the special ethical responsibilities of working in the courts, retention and performance development.