afternoon. I want to start by thanking each and every one of
you for your membership on the Public Service and Trust
Commission and subsequent development of the Judicial
Branch’s first ever
strategic plan. Simply put, what you accomplished in
just over two years is nothing short of amazing.
You collectively spent thousands of hours getting input
as to what was working, what was not working and what
improvements we could make. Then you had the difficult job
of analyzing the information. From all of this, you
developed a comprehensive strategic plan that is currently
being integrated into the Branch’s daily operations. All of
these tasks involved a tremendous amount of commitment and
time, which you generously donated with the shared ultimate
goal of improving the services that our state court system
provides. You never lost sight of the basic premise that, if
we are to have the public’s support, we must continue to
ensure that people who use our courts have the opportunity
to be heard in a meaningful way and are treated with respect
in order that we can do justice.
I am confident that, because of your work, we will reach
out to more people and provide better services and
ultimately, enhance the public's trust. This was the
ultimate goal in appointing you to serve on this commission,
and you have surpassed everyone’s expectations.
Interestingly, the plan is even more critical during
these difficult economic times. You may be aware that the
Branch’s budget was reduced by $17 million dollars in
rescissions last fiscal year and another 12.8 million
dollars as of right now for this fiscal year. In addition,
approximately 225 Judicial Branch employees left under the
Early Retirement Incentive Program. This loss of personnel
is only exacerbated by a hiring freeze that has been in
effect for about a year. As a result of this freeze, we have
not filled over 125 positions that have become vacant.
Even though the budget is tight and resources are
limited, I want to assure you that the Judicial Branch will
continue implementing the strategic plan. Many of the
recommendations that came out of this plan may be
implemented with little or no cost. In short, this plan is
the route by which we can continue to provide enhanced
services to the public.
As we conclude this last meeting of the Public Service
and Trust Commission and move forward, I want to stress that
we will continue to seek your suggestions in the ongoing
implementation of the strategic plan. As I just told you,
the branch has no money hanging around. I tried to think of
what I could do to show my appreciation. My thoughts turned
to food -- specifically the best cake in the world!