Letter: Court system cannot protect rights without funding

Some people believe that we can save money by cutting funding to the court system. That is a short-sighted view for at least two reasons: one we need a healthy court system to guard our freedoms and rights from government action; and two we need a court system to protect our rights from the actions of other citizens and corporations and to resolve disputes.

Imagine a business with three equal partners: one partner, the legislature, raises money; one partner, the governor, conducts business; and the third equal partner, the court, makes sure that the other partners act legally and follow the business plan, the Constitution. When one partner acts illegally, or does not follow the business plan, the third partner, the court system, has the power to overrule that illegally-acting partner.

What happens to this balance of power between the equal partners if the legislature and governor decide that they are not going to fund the court system?

The first issue is: Would it be legal, or constitutional, for one equal partner, or branch of government, to put itself above another branch of government by cutting spending to that branch? The U.S. Constitution and state constitutions created “checks and balances” and an equal partnership of the executive, legislative and judicial branches, so that one branch could not become too powerful and take control of the government. It is unlikely that such an action would be constitutional.

The second issue is: If the court system is underfunded, who will protect our freedoms and rights from the government, other citizens, and corporations? Many state governments are facing severe economic problems and some people say that we should cut spending to the court system in order to save money.

This argument has some followers because some feel that, “we can cut court funding because the court system deals with criminals and I am not a criminal” or “The court system deals with lawsuits and I will never be in a lawsuit.” It is true that most people are never charged with a crime and most people are never in a lawsuit. If we do not have a vibrant court system, who will be on your jury if you are falsely accused of a crime or who will be on your jury if you have to seek justice against a powerful corporation?

The court system serves as a limit on the government so that the government cannot eliminate our freedoms and rights. The court system also prevents citizens and corporations from trampling on the rights of other citizens.

Lastly, the court system solves disputes when other methods fail. Without an adequately funded court system, the government, corporations, and other citizens could take our property or injure us without our ability to fight that injustice. The court system is the guardian of our rights; if it is underfunded, it cannot protect our rights.

There is an expression that says “freedom isn’t free.” That means that the freedoms that we enjoy in this country were paid for by the blood of our forefathers. It also means that if a person wants to have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to bear arms, the right to a jury trial, then that person must be willing to pay for the court system that ensures those freedoms and rights.

We all need an independent court system that can correct any mistakes made by the government hold people and corporations accountable for their actions. Please contact your representatives and tell them how important adequate funding for the court system is to all of us.