Cash strapped courts struggle

April 17, 2009 2:40:46 PM PDT
North Carolina's financially strapped judicial system is feeling the brunt of the recession.Some District Attorney's offices don't even have enough paper to print out certain evidence as required by law.

"We still use a lot of paper and that's the basic tool we have in the court system, and right now we do not have enough paper to do the basic jobs - for example, discovery," explained Orange County DA Jim Woodall.

Just this week, a stern letter went out detailing budget cuts. It talks of freezing expenditures so the state can meet payroll requirements. Purchases are suspended, all vacancies are frozen and no salary increases or promotions will be processed through June.

The judicial system says it's prepared for the worst case scenario. If funds dry up, furloughs may be in order for everyone from clerks to attorneys. And as a last resort, the doors to courthouses across the state could close for a day to save money.

But what if the budget crunch goes on for months or even years?

"We're just concerned that this crisis is going to continue and that the administration of justice in this state will suffer tremendously," offered Woodall.

From the shooting death of UNC senior Eve Carson to the gruesome murder of Joshua Bailey, high profile cases are piling up in Orange County. When justice might be served may depend on the state's bottom line.

"Normally, we'll try to get discovery within just a few weeks from receiving reports from law enforcement. That will double, triple, quadruple, because we simply don't have enough paper to provide discovery right now," said Woodall.


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