Through economic downturn, Pa. courthouses manage to stay open

    Tight state and local budgets have forced many states to close their courthouses or reduce operating hours, but in Pennsylvania, a number of austerity measures have staved off closures.

    Lynn Marks, a court reform advocate, says it’s no small feat that Pennsylvania’s judicial system has weathered a recession without closures.

    “Court funding is really a tricky issue,” she said. “I mean, no one really thinks about the courts until they need them. But when you have a case involving your family or your livelihood, you know you want courts to be open and available.”

    In Pennsylvania, austerity measures have included what amounts to a hiring freeze for statewide court staff and judges.

    A spokesman for the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts says the system has had to dip into its computer fund to make up for operational costs not covered in the state funding.

    Ultimately, that will have to be replenished, he said.

    Pennsylvania is one of at least 27 states, according to a national report, that has raised court fees to help pay for operations.

    That surcharge is set to be phased out at the end of next year, though it has been renewed once before.

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