Layoffs at law firms have slowed to a trickle (although we still hear the occasional rumor; email us with your tips). In the public sector, however, layoffs continue — and may even accelerate, as state governments and the federal government grapple with contentious budget issues.

Today brings word of major layoffs in Connecticut. In a just-issued report, Judge Barbara Quinn, Chief Court Administrator, laid out some serious cuts to positions in the judicial branch.

How serious? This may be hard to believe, but the number of jobs being axed exceeds the February 2009 bloodbath at Latham & Watkins….

Here’s the bottom line, from Judge Quinn’s report:

[The cuts] will have significant consequences. Four courthouses, one juvenile detention center, several offices and six law libraries will be closed; programs will be severely curtailed or eliminated; 452 valued employees will be laid off; and 150 unfilled positions will be eliminated for a total reduction of 602 employees and positions.

More than anything, the impending layoffs will severely compromise our ability to provide essential services to the residents of the State of Connecticut. In response, we are prioritizing the work that must be done and, in order to protect public safety and the constitutional rights of both defendants and victims, criminal matters must be our top priority. This means that we will make every attempt to have criminal cases presented and resolved in a timely fashion.

That’s a somewhat restrained way of putting it. Over at A Connecticut Law Blog, attorney and blogger Ryan McKeen is more blunt:

This is bad. It’s bad not only for the employees who may lose their jobs. It’s bad for the state. It’s bad for business when disputes can’t be resolved in a timely and efficient manner. Bad. Bad. Bad.

For just one example of how cuts are already affecting the administration of justice, see McKeen’s account of a recent family law case.

One lawyer who works within the court system had this reaction to today’s report:

The CT judicial branch just announced its plan to the governor re: the budget crisis.

Essentially they’re firing the tacs and paras (low people on the totem pole), who run the courtrooms now, and having data-entry people run hearings and trials….

[W]e just got the email and we’re kind of shocked that this was the approach they took.

Another source put the matter more succinctly: “THIS IS SO F**KED UP.”

It’s a depressing and deeply unfortunate situation, to be sure. And it’s important to bear in mind the consequences of layoffs in the judicial branch. Voters may ultimately decide that they’d rather endure cuts in government services than tax increases, but they should at least be aware of the trade-offs involved.

Impact Of Layoffs Already Being Felt In CT’s Courts [A Connecticut Law Blog]
Malloy Proposes Cutting 450 Judicial Branch Employees [A Connecticut Law Blog]
Report of the Judicial Branch Detailing Reductions to Expenditures [State of Connecticut Judicial Branch]


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