Archive for January, 2011

Connecticut Judicial Branch Law Library Closure Crisis Summary/Digest

The following history is relevant background information for  Jonathan Stock’s February 2011 Spectrum article, “Saving Connecticut Judicial Branch Libraries: The recent crisis and beyond.”

CONNECTICUT JUDICIAL BRANCH LAW LIBRARY CLOSURE CRISIS

SUMMARY/DIGEST

OCTOBER, 2008-MAY 2010

By Jonathan C. Stock

  • October, 2008: The national economic meltdown begins. It is a phenomenon beyond our control, but one with an inevitable impact on law libraries.
  • March 13, 2009: The Law Library Advisory Committee meets, deliberating alternate responses to a projected 20% budget reduction. The first warning signal arises—a proposal to compensate for drastic cuts by closing law libraries: the fewer is better doctrine. Fewer locations with “everything” current are perceived, by some, as preferable to more locations with fewer things current. This session ends with an ambiguous resolution affirming the value of law libraries, but not committed to keeping all open.

  • April 24, 2009: The Law Library Advisory Committee meets again to confront a worsening crisis. A previously Projected 20% reduction in the law library budget becomes 100% triggered by a $7.8 million reduction in the OE (Other Expenses) budget line item–part of an across-the-board reduction imposed by the Governor. Hope exists, however, that the Legislature can restore these funds.

  • April optimism has long evaporated by mid-November. The General Assembly did pass a restoration of OE funding, a restoration vetoed by the Governor. Effort to override failed in the Senate owing to one Democratic defection.
  • November 18, 2009: Judge Barbara M. Quinn, Chief Court Administrator, testifies before the Appropriations Committee outlining service cutbacks required by loss of $7.8 million reduction in OE. These cutbacks include eliminating six law libraries—as yet unspecified.

  • November 23, 2009: The first round of designated closures becomes public knowledge. Willimantic, Norwich, and Milford are marked for termination effective April 1, 2010. Connecticut Law Tribune article entitled “The Final Chapter” appears. Two more warning signals emerge: 1) Print is out; 2) Everything is free on the Internet.
  • December 23, 2009: The Southern New England Law Libraries Association (SNELLA) and AALL rise to the defense, sending petition letters to the Governor and the Appropriations Committee.
  • December 30, 2009: The second round of closures goes public. Law Libraries at Bridgeport, Litchfield, and Hartford are slated to terminate effective July 1, 2010.
  • Bridgeport closure triggers public outcry. A statement in December 30 Connecticut Post by Attorney Edward Czepiga, President-Elect of the Greater Bridgeport Bar Association, characterizes the local closure as “just horrible.” Massive organizational support arises: GBBA, SNELLA, AALL. The protest accelerates and spreads.
  • January 1-February 28, 2010: AALL and SNELLA launch online Petition Drive for five libraries: Bridgeport, Litchfield, Hartford, Milford, and Norwich.

  • January 1-May 5, 2010: It becomes clear that the outgoing Governor wishes to appoint ten new Superior Court Judges. Representative Lawlor, Judiciary Committee Co-Chairperson, makes it clear that–absent added funding for Judicial, the Legislature will not vote to confirm these nominations.
  • February 9, 2010: SNELLA and AALL testify before Appropriations. The Committee concludes that this crisis arises from the $7.8 million reduction in OE funds; so its remedy must be found there.
  • H.B. 5148 arises from the Judiciary Committee to effect this remedy.

Its intent is two-fold:

1) To restore $7.8 million OE funding before April 1.

2) To correct an imbalance in the separation of powers so that Judicial, as a separate co-equal Branch of government, can communicate its budget

requests unchanged directly to the Legislature. These requests could no

longer be unilaterally reduced by OPM (Executive Branch) prior to transmission.

The separation of powers issue emerges, however, as a sticking point. Testimony by OPM Commissioner Genuario emphasizes that, in fiscal emergencies, any Governor needs rescission powers: an ability to reduce authorized budgets by some fixed percentage.

  • March 3, 2010: H.B. 5148 emerges with a favorable report from Judiciary. The vote, however, follows party lines. An attempt is made, but fails, to divide the vote—allowing restoration of funds but striking the separation of powers provisions. These latter are unacceptable to the Executive Branch.

  • March 25, 2010: Appropriations favorably reports the bill, adding back $8 million in OE funds for FY 11 to replace monies lost this year. A Joint Favorable Report retains controversial separation of powers language.

  • March 26-April 22, 2010 The bill works its way through many steps and ends up tabled for a second time on the House Calendar.

  • April 22-23, 2010: Governor Rell vows to veto H.B. 5148 unless the separation of powers language is modified to preserve Executive authority in budget reduction matters. Her objection relates to H.B. 5148 Sec. 3(b) amending C.G.S. Sec. 4-85 so that the Governor’s power to “require” reductions became a power to “propose.” It further transferred the veto override function from the full House and Senate to the Joint Committee on Appropriations. Finally, the Committee—under this new language—needed only to “approve” any reduction after a public hearing. By implication, therefore, a decision to approve or—importantly—to disapprove required only a majority vote. The two-thirds majority of both Chambers formerly needed to override a veto had vanished. The Executive Branch viewed this last change as a separation of powers violation—unacceptably weakening any Governor’s ability to make urgent budget cuts in crisis time.  The Judiciary Committee vows to block all Judicial nominations absent fund restoration. *Senate arithmetic on veto override remains intact since last year. Hence, there is apparent stalemate.
  • April 23, 2010: A final compromise emerges, breaking this stalemate. Under its terms, the first two revisions—changing require to propose” and transferring legislative review to Appropriations—remain in place. The key compromise language, however, was that rejection of a now “proposed” cut required a two-thirds Committee majority. Hence, the Gubernatorial rescission power remained comparable—although now monitored by a subdivision of the Legislature rather than the full Body thereof. This final compromise language may now be viewed in “An Act Making Adjustments to State Expenditures for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2011,” P.A. 10-179 Sec. 31(e).
  • The amended bill and Judicial appointments looked like going forward.
  • April 24, 2010: The deal stalls. Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams refuses to implement this “deal” until the entire $19 billion State Budget is approved.
  • April 24-May 5, 2010: Our final outcome remains uncertain as budget negotiations crawl forward.
  • May 5, 2010: “An Act Making Adjustments to State Expenditures for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2011” is approved as the legislature closes down on schedule.                                               
  • The result is that 4 out of six law libraries will be saved from closure: Bridgeport, Litchfield, Hartford, and Willimantic. Two are lost: Milford and Norwich. We emerged victorious by a split decision, but nonetheless victorious.

Jonathan C. Stock (jcstock@snet.net) retired from his position as supervising law librarian at the Connecticut Judicial Branch Law Library at Stamford effective June 1, 2009.


Point – Counterpoint accepting vendor contributions

The February 2011 issue of AALL Spectrum at p 28 and available now and has a pair of provocative pieces. The first by law firm librarian Michael Ginsborg argues that AALL should play a greater role in consumer advocacy and that accepting vendor donations creates a conflict of interest. The second piece, by 2 former AALL presidents, Judy Meadow, a court librarian and Kay Todd, a law firm librarian counter that consumer advocacy is not part of AALL’s mission and that vendor donations don’t compromise individual members impartiality or the positions AALL takes on information policy matters.

What do you think? Please share your comments.

February issue of Spectrum online

Paper copies mailed out to members on January 25,  so look for them in your mailboxes soon.

 

Books for bytes – evolving collections

The Daily Record from Baltimore has a well-balanced story about the changing collections of law libraries around Baltmore, http://www.dolanmedia.com/view.cfm?recID=668477

It includes quotes from users, administrators and librarians in law firms, academic and public law libraries; helpful in understanding varying reasons and responses: books as comfort or status, ease of use to economics of space and revenue production.

Take Advantage of Discounted Registration for 2011 LMA Annual Conference

This year AALL is an association partner for the 2011 Legal Marketing Association (LMA) Annual Conference, held in Orlando April 4-6. It is the largest educational and networking event for legal marketing and business development professionals. More than 800 attendees gather at this event annually to learn from the industry’s leaders. This is a great opportunity for you to meet with legal marketers of all specialties and experience levels, from firms large and small.

Through the partnership, AALL members are entitled to receive the LMA member rate when registering. Mention that you are an AALL member when registering to receive the LMA full member rate. The registration deadline is February 25. Book online today at www.LMAConference.com or call 877-562-7172.

Publisher Pricing

See http://thelifeofbooks.blogspot.com/2011/01/waiting-for-other-shoe-to-drop.html for some provocative thoughts from Rich Leiter about Law Journal Seminars Press new pricing approach and the Economist site licensing pricing.

Manage with Confidence

From transforming libraries and nurturing staff for new roles and responsibilities to developing a strategic plan for the library to building partnerships, new law library managers have a lot on their plates. The 2011 AALL Management Institute, to be held April 7-9, in Chicago, will provide new and aspiring managers with the opportunity to collaborate with your colleagues from all types of law libraries and develop the skills you need to manage with confidence today.

LEARN HOW TO:

  • Build and nurture a professional network
  • Develop effective communication
  • Negotiate and handle difficult situations
  • Develop a strategic plan
  • Take on project management
  • Champion the library’s role within the institution and build partnerships

FACULTY:

Maureen Sullivan is an organization development consultant whose practice focuses on the delivery of consulting and training services to libraries and other information organizations. She is the 2010 Association of College and Research Libraries’ Academic/Research Librarian of the Year. 

The registration deadline is March 7, and the number of attendees will be capped at 50. Don’t wait – register today!




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