Comity or Confrontation: Budgeting Independence of the American Judiciary

Justin Apperson


While many American court systems have constitutional funding protections judicial salaries, the judiciary in the position of bargaining for funding for staff, services, technology, facilities, supplies, and other goods to adequately fund the constitutional mission of adjudication. Courts have looked to two principal strategies in securing funding. First, courts have tried to improve the relationship with the other branches through long-term connections and demonstrations of sound judicial governance. Courts have sought to improve their strategic planning, incorporating novel uses of data including performance measures, with the collateral hope of enhancing budget justifications. Courts have also tested political strategies for self-advocacy, including elevating judicial officers as spokespersons for the judicial branch, mobilizing stakeholders, and lobbying key officials. Second, courts have invoked the inherent powers of the judiciary as a separate and co-equal branch to compel funding that is reasonably necessary to administration of justice. Judicial leaders have typically disfavored this technique, which presents its own risks of trespassing on legislative power and impairing longer-term strategies for building bridges and understanding between the branches, except in patterns of legislative neglect or hostility towards judicial independence.


Judicial Independence; Budgeting; Communications Strategies; Inherent Powers

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