Puerto Rico Courts administrator warns of expected budget cuts
SAN JUAN – The administrative judge of the Courts of Puerto Rico, Sigfrido Steidel Figueroa, said the cuts to the judicial branch that are expected to be announced Tuesday will have a detrimental effect on access to justice.
“Given the budget constraints we have faced in recent years, the proposal for additional reductions to the budget of the judicial branch is highly worrying,” he said in a statement.
Since 2014, the judicial branch has taken numerous fiscal-responsibility measures to face the island’s debt crisis. “Despite this, additional dramatic cuts are proposed today that will have a detrimental effect on the direct and essential services that are provided daily in our courts and in the care of thousands of cases of domestic violence, foreclosures, mental health, protection for the elderly, among many others, that impact the lives of Puerto Ricans,” he said.
In an island with complex social problems, Steidel Figueroa said it is necessary to have a robust judiciary with the necessary resources for an agile, accessible and efficient administration of justice. “We still do not have the official version of the budget, but we will do everything in our power to defend our constitutional function of guaranteeing the full exercise of the rights and fundamental freedoms of all citizens,” he said.
The judicial branch operates with a percent of the budget that has been frozen for the past several years. As has transpired, the current budget for the branch is reduced to $306 million from $322 million, a $16 million cut. In 2010, the branch had to close several courtrooms as a result of the cuts.
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