- Associated Press - Thursday, November 12, 2015

DOVER, Del. (AP) - Delaware’s chief justice urged officials from Gov. Jack Markell’s administration on Thursday to provide more funding to address pay inequities and security needs within the state’s court system.

Chief Justice Leo Strine Jr. said one of his priorities is pay fairness for rank-and-file court employees who work in downtown Wilmington and must pay for parking, which is typically free for court employees working elsewhere in the state.

The typical $1,700 in annual parking costs represents a significant financial burden for judiciary employees in Wilmington, many of whom make less than $35,000 a year, Strine said.

Strine is asking budget officials for about $2.5 million in additional general funding in fiscal 2017. Roughly half the money would go to help pay parking costs for Wilmington court workers. Lawmakers on the General Assembly’s budget-writing committee reacted warily to a similar parking subsidy request earlier this year, with some calling it a disguised pay raise that court employees in Kent and Sussex would not receive.

Strine said he favors a pay raise for all state employees, but that in the absence of across-the-board pay raises, court workers in Wilmington deserve financial help with parking.

Strine also is seeking money to convert several so-called “casual-seasonal” law clerk and security positions to full-time positions with benefits.

Court officials also are seeking $5 million in additional funding for initial planning to replace the existing Family Court facilities in Kent and Sussex counties.

Court officials and attorneys say cramped and crowded conditions in the Family Court buildings present serious operational and security problems, with litigants in highly charged domestic proceedings often in close proximity to one another.

“It’s really a powder keg,” said James McGiffin, a Kent County attorney who often represents clients in Family Court.

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