Andrew W. Yates


State courts are in financial crisis. Since the mid-1990s, state legislatures have allowed funding for their judicial systems to stagnate or dwindle. With diminished resources, state courts have struggled to provide adequate access to justice and dispute resolution. The solution to this crisis may lie in the doctrine of inherent judicial power. Courts have historically used inherent power to request additional funds from local legislative bodies for discrete expenditures. The use of inherent power to challenge the overall sufficiency of a judicial budget, however, has proven troubling. Under the current formulation of the inherent-power doctrine, a state court contesting the adequacy of a statewide judicial budget runs into two problems. First, by invoking its inherent power to compel additional funding, the court may usurp the appropriation power of the legislature. Second, state courts threaten their own legitimacy by taking a portion of the state budget out of the political process.

In response to these problems, this Note proposes a reformulation of the inherent-power doctrine. Specifically, state courts should invoke inherent power against a legislature only under a standard of absolute necessity to perform the duties required by federal and state constitutional law. This new standard limits the use of inherent power to situations that threaten the judiciary's ability to perform its constitutionally mandated functions. By cabining the permitted uses of inherent power, the standard respects the separation of powers and preserves the judiciary's public legitimacy.

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