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Mo. Chief Judge Sends Out a Warning

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) __ With his term atop Missouri’s judiciary ending, Chief Justice William Ray Price Jr. warned Thursday that the courts are facing increased political and
financial pressures that are straining their core functions of dispensing justice and resolving disputes.

Price, Missouri’s longest-serving current Supreme Court member, is to be succeeded Friday as chief justice by Supreme Court Judge Richard Teitelman. Missouri’s top judicial spot rotates every two years among the seven members of the state Supreme Court. Price plans to remain on the court.

In an interview Thursday with media outlets, Price said several years of tight state budgets have caused the court system to cut back on personnel and to sacrifice long-term efforts such court computerization projects to meet the short-term needs of simply running the courts.

For the annual state budget that takes effect Friday, Gov. Jay Nixon already has cut $6 million from the $170 million in general revenues allotted for the courts, which the governor’s budget office said would leave the judiciary with the same level of funding as this past year.

Price said he understands the need for all branches of government to share in budget cuts. But “one challenge is to deal with efficiency without losing the sense of individual justice that
people expect when they come to a court,” Price said. He added: “I have frustration on the level of funding for the courts, for the public defenders, for the prosecutors __ for everything we do.”

Copyright Associated Press

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