$144,900 is the amount the Judicial Standards Commission has lost since fiscal year 2009, which amounts to 17 percent of its budget.
10-15% is the amount by which most states have cut courts’ funding in the past three years, according to an American Bar Association report.
"When we lose money, it goes directly into what we can investigate and prosecute." —Randy Roybal, JSC executive director
If the JSC’s budget remains the same next fiscal year, commission employees will be forced to take two weeks of unpaid leave.
Roybal says closing the office, which investigates allegations of judicial misconduct, would be the only way to make up the almost $26,000 of salary deficiencies it faces. An average two-week payroll costs roughly $24,000, Roybal says.
The deficiencies go back three years, when, like many other states, New Mexico started cutting court funding to balance the state budget.
But Roybal says his office is now receiving a historically high number of complaints—a statistic borne out by recent headlines, which implicate judges around the state in crimes ranging from bribery to prostitution. The JSC’s work has resulted in 34 judges leaving office in the past eight years. It also often applies lesser penalties such as suspensions, probation and remedial trainings.
Roybal, who requested more funding at an Oct. 19 Legislative Finance Committee meeting, says his office may be forced to investigate fewer cases if it doesn’t get additional funding by this summer.
The JSC is also facing a $20,000 deficiency in its operating expenses, which go toward staff training, court reporters and rent.
“We haven’t used court reporters in two years,” Roybal tells SFR.
Instead, the JSC records trials with audio that has to be manually shuffled through later. Roybal says he recently took his financial person off a trial and made her prepare logs from hours of tapes.
“It takes a lot of resources,” he says. “In the end, I would argue it costs the state more.”
At minimum, Roybal is asking to fill JSC’s salary deficiencies to prevent the two weeks of furlough.