ARCHIVED: Support for Full FY 2000 Funding for the State Justice Institute

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October 5, 1999

Honorable Judd Gregg
Chairman, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State, and the Judiciary
Senate Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510-2904

BY FAX: 202.224.4952

Dear Senator Gregg:

On behalf of the American Association of Law Libraries, I write to you today to urge your continued strong support for the full FY 2000 appropriations request of $15 million for the State Justice Institute (SJI) that is being negotiated by the conference committee members on S.1217/H.R. 2670, the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2000.

We thank members of the Senate Committee on Appropriations for approving $6.85 million for the SJI, an amount which equals that of FY 1999, and for noting in report language that another $8 million would be available from the Federal Judiciary's budget for FY 2000. That total--$14.85 million--will enable the SJI to continue to fulfill its unique mission in granting awards to improve the quality of justice in State courts; in facilitating better coordination between State and Federal courts; and in fostering innovative, efficient solutions to a broad range of common problems at all levels of the judiciary. The SJI's successful efforts in achieving these important goals will ensure that all American citizens have ready access to a fair and effective judicial system.

The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) was founded in 1906 to promote and enhance the value of law libraries to the legal and public communities, to foster the profession of law librarianship, and to provide leadership in the field of legal information. Today, with 4,800 members, the Association represents law librarians and related professionals who are affiliated with a wide range of institutions: law firms; law schools; corporate legal departments; courts; and local, state and federal government agencies. AALL has a very well-established and very active State, Court and County Law Libraries Special Interest Section, and among these libraries, fifty-one are designated as SJI depository libraries.

AALL is very concerned and alarmed that members of the House Committee on Appropriations have eliminated all federal funding to the SJI for FY 2000 in their companion bill, H.R. 2670. In their apparent fervor to reduce the costs of government, they have unwittingly ignored the very valuable and unique role that the SJI plays within the national justice system. As is true with many other federally-funded entities, the public good derived by the SJI in providing comprehensive programs benefitting the courts and the public they serve far exceeds the level of Congress' modest investment.

AALL strongly supports the SJI and fully concurs with the five justifications for its continued Congressional support, summarized below, that have been expressed by South Dakota Chief Justice Robert Miller, Chairman of the Institute's Board of Directors.

First, that the federal government has a compelling reason to appropriate funds to SJI as part of the national effort to control crime.

Second, that, as a federal entity governed by state officials and members of the public, SJI can award funds to state and local courts without creating the risk of unwarranted federal intrusion.

Third, that the SJI maximizes the return on its limited appropriations by requiring grantees to develop very practical products for use by those courts who need them.

Fourth, that the SJI grant program is highly competitive, and that the state court community contributes more than twice the amount of matching support required by law.

And fifth, that the SJI is the only source of federal funds dedicated to improving the quality of our national court system.

We therefore respectfully urge the Senate member of the conference committee on S.1217/H.R.2670 to insist on full funding for the State Justice Institute. Thank you very much for your past support for the Institute and for your strong commitment in ensuring that its mandate is preserved for the benefit of all Americans.

Sincerely,

Robert L. Oakley
American Association of Law Libraries
Washington Affairs Representative

cc:
Honorable Ted Stevens
Honorable Pete V. Domenici
Honorable Mitch McConnell
Honorable Kay Bailey Hutchison
Honorable Ben Nighthorse Campbell
Honorable Thad Cochran
Honorable Ernest F. Hollings
Honorable Daniel K. Inouye
Honorable Frank Lautenberg
Honorable Barbara A. Mikulski
Honorable Patrick Leahy
Honorable Robert C. Byrd