20 Sep, 2011

American Bar Association President at Symposium to Discuss Court Underfunding

Chief justices, legal scholars, practitioners, bar leaders and members of the business community will join together for a national dialogue on the practical and constitutional impact of court underfunding at the University of Kentucky College of Law on Sept. 23–24.  Sen. Mitch McConnell, nine state Supreme Court chief justices from across the country and American Bar Association President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III are among participants who will focus on the impact of the funding crisis on access to justice.

“There is nothing more precious than our freedom and that comes from access to justice,” said ABA president Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III (pictured). “By bringing many of the stakeholders in access to justice together—judges, practitioners, bar leaders, academics and government leaders—this symposium affords us a unique opportunity to analyze and confront the crisis head on,” he continued. “We must do everything in our power to adequately fund our courts and counter this fundamental threat to our constitutional democracy,” he added.

Court Underfunding Crisis: 

  • 95 percent of all cases in the US are filed in state courts.
  • Last year, 40 states slashed state court funding.
  • In New York, a $178 million cut in the state court system almost immediately led to 500 people being laid off.
  • New Hampshire suspended all civil cases for a year to deal with overwhelming backlogs exacerbated by inadequate funding. 
  • At least six states close their courts one day a week because of inadequate funding.


  • ABA President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III
  • State Supreme Court Justices John Minton (chief justice, Ky.), Maureen O’Connor (chief justice, Ohio), Jean Toal (chief justice, S.C.), Christine Durham (chief justice, Utah), Paul De Muniz (chief justice, Ore.), Margaret H. Marshall (chief justice, ret.,  Mass.), Peggy Quince (chief justice, ret., Fla.), Jack Jacobs (justice, Del.) and Mark Martin (senior associate justice, N.C.)
  • Erwin Chemerinsky, dean, University of California – Irvine School of Law

Highlights include:

  • “Courts, Business and the Economy” — will explore topics such as the role of courts in maintaining a viable economy, the reality of closing courts, dispute resolution and small business litigation. —  Sept. 23, 12:45 – 2:30 p.m., Singletary Center 
  • “Court Funding:  Autonomy, Access and Accountability” — will discuss constitutional issues involving state court funding, judicial independence and the inherent powers of the court.  —  Sept. 23, 2:30 – 4 p.m., Singletary Center 
  • Remarks by U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell — Sept. 23, 4:15 – 4:45 p.m., Singletary Center 
  • Gala Dinner Honoring ABA President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III and Celebrating the Kentucky Law Journal’s 100th Anniversary — Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III will give the keynote address on state court underfunding. —  Sept. 23, 7 – 9 p.m., Lexington Convention Center 
  • “18th Century Courts – 21st Century Expectations” — will discuss technology and efficiency, the changing role of courts, the impact of social media on the courts and solutions some courts have used to combat budget cuts. —  Sept. 24, 9:30 – 11 a.m., Memorial Hall 
  • “Putting It All Together: What Can We Do Now?” — includes remarks by Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall (ret., Mass.).  —  Sept. 24, 11:15 a.m. – noon, Memorial Hall 


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