Court faces crisis; jobs at stake

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 6, 2003

Marengo County Circuit Clerk Rusty Nichols sits by his computer every day, dreading the arrival of the next e-mail. District Attorney Greg Griggers has already received that e-mail.

Griggers was told his budget has been cut $42,000 this year. Nichols fears he’ll be told to cut one, maybe two, members of his already short staff.

That doesn’t mean it won’t. On Friday, state newspapers reported that the government plans to lay off anywhere from 450 to 500 employees of the judicial system by the end of November. Along with those lay offs has come a reduction in court funding.

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When Griggers was told of his $42,000 budget cut, the District Attorney made every effort not to lay off employees. So far, he’s held true to that.

To make up for the budget cut, Griggers said he will work hard to watch supplies in his office, cut down on travel, and no member of his staff will attend seminars or continuing education classes.

So does Nichols, who originally had five employees an now has only four.

The circuit clerk’s office in Linden handles all the paperwork for the court system, and Nichols doesn’t know how his office will function if another staff cut comes.

Griggers, who relies on the circuit clerk’s office to handle all court documents, doesn’t know how effectively the judicial system will operate if more cuts come.

Those are just a few of the duties of the clerk’s office, and Griggers said that one small item like issuing subpoenas could throw off the entire system.

If Nichols does receive an e-mail telling him to make cuts in his office, state government will handle the hardest part of the job.

While facing budget cuts is difficult for both Nichols and Griggers, there may be a silver lining &045; so far.

Less than three years ago, the Alabama judicial system shut down and court was not held when funding was not available to pay jurors.