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Funding Justice: Messages for Restoring Court Funding.

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Presentation on theme: "Funding Justice: Messages for Restoring Court Funding."— Presentation transcript:

1 Funding Justice: Messages for Restoring Court Funding

2 Six focus groups of registered voters – February 2012 – Richmond, VA Non-college women, College-educated men, – Milwaukee, WI Served jury duty in last 18 months, mixed gender and education Non-college men, – Phoenix, AZ College-educated women, Direct experience within courts in last 18 months, mixed gender / education Representative national survey of 1,000 registered voters – Conducted April 2-5, 2012 – Mix of landline and cell phone interviews 2 Research Overview

3 Current political environment represents tremendous challenge for advocates of increased court funding Voters show some support for increased funding, but not at expense of other budget priorities, i.e. courts cannot win a spending debate against education, health care, etc. 3 Key Findings No natural constituency for the courts within the electorate Need to focus on Constitutional rights, security, and protecting taxpayers/small businesses Research calls for two-tiered approach with different strategies and messages for (1)policymakers and (2) general public

4 Public Perception of the CourtsPublic Perception of the Courts 4

5 Please tell me how much confidence you, yourself, have in each one – a great deal of confidence, some confidence, not very much confidence, or no confidence at all. 5 Limited Confidence in Public Institutions

6 6 Supreme Court Favorability at 25-yr Low

7 Weak Numbers on Key Principles of Court System Thinking about the (STATE) court system, please tell me whether, in your opinion, each of the following words or phrases describes the state’s courts very well, well, not very well, or not well at all. 7 Key Principles of Court System? Weak Nos.

8 A Challenging Political EnvironmentA Challenging Political Environment 8

9 Please tell me which one of these you think the Governor and state legislature should make their first priority… And which do you think should be the next priority for the Governor and state legislature? 9 2 Economic Concerns Dominate Public Priorities

10 Please tell me whether the first statement or the second statement comes closer to your own view, even if neither is exactly right. First Statement: Legislators seeking to balance the budget by slashing funding for (STATE) courts are threatening the balance of power in state government. In order to protect access to justice for all and our rights under the Constitution, we must defend fair and impartial courts from this type of political interference. Second Statement: (STATE) government must live within its means, and the state’s court system is no exception. They must review their spending to find new efficiencies or cost savings. Just like (STATE) taxpayers, our court system must tighten its belt and figure out how to do more with less in these difficult times Spending Concerns Trump ‘Fair and Impartial’

11 Diagnosing the ProblemDiagnosing the Problem 11

12 As you may know, state court systems face record levels of delays and backlogs today. Which two of the following do you feel are most responsible for the delays facing our court system today? 12 Blame for Court Delays Placed on Issues Unrelated to Funding

13 Please tell me whether the first statement or the second statement comes closer to your own view, even if neither is exactly right. First Statement: Restoring funding for state courts will make the court system more efficient and help ensure that justice is provided for all citizens. Second Statement: Restoring funding for state courts will just pour more money into a broken system and will not really improve the court system Belief that Restoring Court Funding Won’t Address Problems

14 Obstacles to Support for Increased FundingObstacles to Support for Increased Funding 1.Voters are not focused on the court system and its needs Ranks well below economic development, education, taxes, etc. Fail to differentiate courts from other aspects of ‘government’ No longer see courts upholding many core principles 2.Demand for fiscal austerity trumps traditional arguments When it comes to balancing budgets, priorities that are low on voters’ lists become politically viable areas to make cuts. 3-in-4 believe courts in their state receive too much or right amount of funding – far higher than any other budget priority tested 3.Courts’ challenges not viewed as result of funding cuts Blame falls on unnecessary lawsuits, lawyers, bureaucracy Majority of voters believe more funding will “just pour more money into a broken system and not really improve the court system” 14 Obstacles to Support for Increased Funding

15 Reshaping Public Attitudes on the CourtsReshaping Public Attitudes on the Courts Step One: Focus on harm to taxpayers, not the courts Communications Goal: Shift the terms of this debate from government spending to individual rights, economic impact 15 Reshaping Public Attitudes About the Courts It’s not about you. It’s about THEM. “Delays raise incarceration costs.” “Effective and efficient courts save taxpayers money.” “Backlogs hurt small business owners and the economy.” “Cuts in courthouse security could put people in harm’s way.”

16 Reshaping Public Attitudes on the CourtsReshaping Public Attitudes on the Courts Step Two: Acknowledge existing shortcomings Trumpeting the courts in the face of public disillusionment creates a dissonance that undermines credibility Voters know the courts have problems but don’t know the causes or the consequences Communications Goal: Establish credibility 16 Reshaping Public Attitudes About the Courts

17 Reshaping Public Attitudes on the CourtsReshaping Public Attitudes on the Courts Step Three: Give Taxpayers Confidence in their Investment Show that new funding will improve courts, but keep the focus on the taxpayers, not the courts themselves 17 Reshaping Public Attitudes About the Courts Communications Goal: Meet the Austerity Argument Head On “[STATE] courts must change the way we do business to better meet the needs of citizens & employers across our state. That’s why we’re investing in [SPECIFIC EXAMPLE] to save taxpayers money and provide better customer service to those in our courts.”

18 Reshaping Public Attitudes on the CourtsReshaping Public Attitudes on the Courts Step Four: Use Detailed Stories 1. Use narratives wherever possible to humanize impact of courts 2. Start with economic benefits and consequences 18 Reshaping Public Attitudes About the Courts “When courts are able to process criminal cases speedily, it saves taxpayers money by reducing the time that defendants spend in jail awaiting trial. Cutting court funding costs taxpayers money by increasing jail time before trial.”

19 Reshaping Public Attitudes on the CourtsReshaping Public Attitudes on the Courts 3. Shift to security consequence for entire community Communications Goal: Humanize the consequences of budget cuts 19 Reshaping Public Attitudes About the Courts “Because of funding cuts, some state courts can no longer pay for adequate security, putting judges, court employees, jurors, and the public in increased danger. People in a courtroom should not fear for their own safety.” Step Four: Use Detailed Stories

20 Reshaping Public Attitudes on the CourtsReshaping Public Attitudes on the Courts Step Five: Remember the justice mission 20 Reshaping Public Attitudes About the Courts “Our courts are the final line of protection for individual rights. They provide access to justice, protect us from abuses of power by corporations or government officials, and protect our most basic Constitutional rights” Communications Goal: After demonstrating credibility and reassuring voters concerned about austerity, close on “first principles.”

21 Reshaping Public Attitudes on the CourtsReshaping Public Attitudes on the Courts Step Six: Avoid messages that will backfire DO NOT SAY “Separate and co-equal branch of government” DO NOT SAY “We need more money for staff” DO NOT ASSUME only conservatives think the legal system is broken 21 Reshaping Public Attitudes About the Courts Communications Goal: Don’t Step in It!

22 Messaging in Action: New MexicoMessaging in Action: New Mexico 22 Making the Case: New Mexico

23 Messaging in Action: IllinoisMessaging in Action: Illinois 23 Making the Case: Illinois

24 Messaging in Action: OregonMessaging in Action: Oregon 24 Making the Case: Oregon

25 Messaging in Action: OregonMessaging in Action: Oregon 25 Making the Case: Massachusetts

26 Messaging in Action: Justice RobertsMessaging in Action: Justice Roberts 26 Making the Case: Chief Justice Roberts

27 Messaging in Action: Justice RobertsMessaging in Action: Justice Roberts 27 Making the Case: Washington State I recently learned that the Chinese symbol for crises is a combination of two concepts—opportunity and danger. The opportunity is to redefine how we deliver services to the public. The danger is in failing to adapt.... The extensive budget cuts of the past four years have required the courts to become creative and to be innovators—and we’re committed to continue looking for new, efficient processes to help us fulfill our responsibility to deliver justice. —State of the Judiciary Address, Washington State Chief Justice Barbara Madsen, January 23, 2013

28 Messaging in Action: Justice RobertsMessaging in Action: Justice Roberts 28 Making the Case: Hawaii The portion of the state’s budget attributable to the judiciary has declined.... and is now only about 2.3%.... Yet we’ve been able to accomplish results beyond what might be expected. We’ve done that through two main strategies: first, by innovating to find new solutions to long-standing challenges, and second, by bringing people together to address those challenges collaboratively. —State of the Judiciary Address, Hawaii Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald, February 2013


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