Posted on the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, August 17, 2011

In this age of fiscal austerity, we’ve read many accounts of judicial officials raising concerns that proposed budget cuts to state courts could thwart litigants from exercising their legal rights.

In Michigan, though, state judges are on board with a proposal to trim their budgets.

In this statement, the Michigan Supreme Court today announced that trial and appellate judges in the state agree with a state report that recommends eliminating 45 trial judgeships and four appellate judicial positions.

Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. said in the statement that it is unprecedented to have a state court system recognize “that it needs to shrink.”  He added: “That has never happened before. This is an aggressive, but achievable, set of recommendations. We are unaware of any reduction of this magnitude attempted anywhere in our country.”

At a news conference, Young said the cuts would save about $7.8 million in salaries and benefits, according to this report from Detroit News.

“Increasing the size of government is easy,” Young said. “It turns out it takes political courage to reduce it.”

Here’s a link to the report by the Michigan State Court Administrative Office, which recommended the judicial cuts but also concluded that new trial judgeships were needed in certain underserved parts of the state.

The Administrative Office, however, recommended against creating new judgeships at the current time “because of the state’s economic climate,” according to the statement by the Michigan Supreme Court.