WV Supreme Court asks for $125 million appropriation - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

WV Supreme Court asks for $125 million appropriation

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The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals is requesting a $125 million appropriation this year.

Chief Justice Brent Benjamin presented the request in a Senate finance committee meeting, where he described several of the court's new and continuing programs.

Benjamin said this figure is not final and that the court is still reviewing the total in light of the justice reinvestment, which plans to deal with prison crowding problem.

"Several items can and will change," Benjamin said. "That's why our court will continue reviewing and studying each element of the budget to make sure that total amount is really needed."

Benjamin noted that last year, the court returned $2.2 million to the general revenue fund and $2 million also in 2009. He said the court will continue to look for as many opportunities as it can for cost savings.

Addressing members of the Senate finance committee, Benjamin said 90 percent of the court's budget is for salaries and benefits for the entire judicial system's personnel.

Additionally, Benjamin mentioned several initiatives such as the drug court program. In West Virginia, there are 20 adult drug courts covering 30 counties and 16 juvenile drug courts covering 20 counties.

"Each began as pilots with federal grant money," Benjamin said. "Since then, it has proven to be very successful."

He said he hopes to see the program grow, especially juvenile drug courts.

Benjamin also mentioned several successes in the court system such as a decrease in petitions, primarily because of workers' compensation laws enacted by the Legislature.

He also mentioned the domestic violence registry, which was brought online in 2009, and a database focusing on those who are involuntarily committed so they can't purchase firearms.

In the near future, Benjamin said the court is looking at conversion from print to electronic format. He said the Access to Justice commission is applying for a technology grant from the Public Welfare Foundation so court officials can visit other states who have an online system to see how they can accomplish something similar in the Mountain State.

Related to that, but not yet decided by the court, is a proposal to convert the regional law library in Harrison County to a self-help access center where people can access help by phone or online. Benjamin said there would be no additional personnel costs with this.

"This is currently in the planning stage," he said.

Benjamin said he wanted to stress that the law library in the capitol complex is not being closed.