SANTA FE (AP) — New Mexico courts are heavily overburdened and need millions more in funding, the state's top judge said Thursday.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Vigil told legislators during the State of the Judiciary that courts need nearly $172 million in funding this upcoming fiscal year, which begins in July.
That's about a 9 percent increase in funding over last year.
"A strong court system improves the well-being and safety of everyone, particularly the poor and the downtrodden, and a judiciary that is able to resolve disputes in a timely manner attracts business investment and supports economic development," Vigil said.
Trial court judges presided over almost 400,000 cases in the 2014 fiscal year alone, Vigil said.
Vigil said magistrate courts are most heavily in need of more funding, saying they were in a "fiscal predicament." The magistrate court's funding was cut two years ago when an operations fee and bond revenues fell through, creating a $1.2 million shortfall.
Magistrate courts hear preliminary hearings, misdemeanors, traffic violations and some civil disputes under $10,000. There are 49 magistrate courts around New Mexico with 67 judges.