ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The state’s judicial branch is asking for more funding as New Mexico faces a budget shortfall.
New Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles W. Daniels told a committee of legislators that “we’ve gotten to the point where there is not much more we can do without impairing our ability to deliver justice.”
Drug and treatment courts may be affected if more funding is not approved, Daniels said.
“Right now, we’re keeping our nostrils above the surface,” he said. “But you can only do that for so long.”
A 4.8 percent increase in the judicial budget has been requested.
A spokesman for Gov. Susana Martinez said the funding requests show the judiciary is not taking the state’s budget situation seriously. “The judiciary’s increases in spending have far surpassed increases in most other areas of government for several years,” spokesman Michael Lonergan said.
The state’s courts account for about 2.6 percent of the New Mexico budget.
The Law Offices of the Public Defender is asking for a 10 percent boost from the current funding level.
Chief Public Defender Ben Baur said the underfunded office may have to start refusing cases. Attorneys have caseloads as much as 400 percent higher than what’s recommended by the American Bar Association as well as the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, he said.
“If you don’t fund defense, the system doesn’t work,” he said.