Q. What kind of services does the staff of the Fourteenth Judicial District provide to the public?
A. Our primary charge falls into a number of areas.
In non-criminal areas, to provide a fair and impartial forum for the resolution of disputes, consistent with the laws of the state of Colorado.
To protect the public via the issuance of protective orders which prohibit individuals who pose a threat from contacting or harassing others.
In the area of criminal law, to provide an impartial forum in which individuals charged with criminal offenses may receive a fair trial, consistent with the protections provided by the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the state of Colorado, and the laws of the state of Colorado.
If a defendant is found to be guilty, to conduct a pre-sentence investigation so that the offender may be appropriately sentenced.
To protect the public and rehabilitate offenders via supervision of the Probation Department.
A very wide variety of issues are brought before the court.
In addition to criminal matters and civil suits, the court hears a variety of family-related matters.
These include dissolutions of marriage, disputes concerning parenting time, child support, child neglect and abuse, disputes regarding wills and estates, adoptions and child relinquishments, and mental health matters that may require hospitalization and the appointment of guardians.
The largest percentage of our cases involve traffic violations.
Q. Are there other places to cut from the district's budget? How much more barebones can the district get?
A. We take great pride in the services we provide to our communities; however, any further cuts will leave us no choice but to eliminate services.
Mandatory furloughs without pay have resulted in 1,326 lost hours of work in our clerks' offices alone. Another 1,000 hours of clerical support has been lost due to the branch's hiring freeze.
More than 900 hours have been lost in our probation department.
This district has always operated in an extremely lean, efficient manner; we simply cannot absorb further reductions without the creation of serious problems.
In fact, we are seriously considering a reduction in the hours we are open to the public. This reduction could be announced before the end of the month.
We have already eliminated all discretionary programs. Although considered non-essential, these programs were extremely beneficial to our communities and they will be sorely missed. They include:
n The Pro Se Assistance Program, which provided free procedural advice and information for those who could not afford an attorney.
n The Settlement Conference Program, which provided a part-time judge for the purpose of conducting settlement conferences in civil cases. This program routinely settled cases, eliminating the need to conduct costly trials and in so doing, benefited all taxpayers.
n The Dependency and Neglect Intervention / Family Conferencing Program.
This program brought families and friends of those in jeopardy of losing their children due to neglect together in search of solutions designed to protect the children and keep families together.
Again, in the end this program saved taxpayer dollars.
Q. What are the direct and indirect impacts of cutting hours and, in the future, possibly staff?
A. As noted above, further reduction in staff hours will require reductions in services.
I am very proud of our staff; they are dedicated individuals who work very hard and do an excellent job.
Unfortunately, however, there are only so many hours in the day.
We will always direct our primary focus on public safety issues, such as the processing of warrants, protective orders and matters dealing with the welfare of children.
Our next highest priority will be the timely processing of our serious criminal and juvenile caseload.
All other matters will receive our attention as time permits. Parties in civil cases may have to consider trying cases to private tribunals.
The processing of certain case types may be eliminated altogether; however, that is a matter that will be determined by the Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court.
Indirect impacts, while perhaps not as noticeable, are worrisome. Court and Probation staff are under extraordinary pressure.
There is a tremendous amount of work that must be done and due to the nature of our work, it must be completed with very few errors.
Employees are worried about their jobs and dealing with mandatory furloughs without pay that often result in financial hardships. The negative impacts associated with this type of situation should not be underestimated.