October 5, 1999
Honorable Harold Rogers
Chairman, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State, the Judiciary and Related Agencies
House Committee on Appropriations
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515-1705
BY FAX: 202.225.0940
Dear Representative Rogers:
On behalf of the American Association of Law Libraries, I write today to urge you and your House colleagues on the conference committee for H.R. 2670/S.1217, the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2000, to support the full FY 2000 appropriations request of $15 million for the State Justice Institute (SJI).
The Senate Committee on Appropriations approved $6.85 million for the SJI, an amount which equals that of FY 1999, and noted in report language that another $8 million would be available from the Federal Judiciary's budget for FY 2000. That total--$14.85 million--would 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 alarmed that members of the House Committee on Appropriations intend to eliminate all federal funding for the SJI for FY 2000. We believe that the Committee is ignoring, perhaps unwittingly, 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 all House members of the conference committee on H.R.2670/ S.1217 to agree to the full funding level for FY 2000 as requested by the State Justice Institute. We are very hopeful that you will share the commitment of the members of the Senate Appropriations Committee in preserving the mandate of the SJI for the benefit of all Americans.
Robert L. Oakley
American Association of Law Libraries
Washington Affairs Representative
cc: Honorable Jim Kolbe
Honorable Charles H. Taylor
Honorable Ralph Regula
Honorable Tom Latham
Honorable Dan Miller
Honorable Zach Wamp
Honorable Jose E. Serrano
Honorable Julian C. Dixon
Honorable Alan B. Mollohan
Honorable Lucille Roybal-Allard