Dollars in the Court Room, Here Come the Judge

So, here’s a little tidbit that slipped into the state’s budget between the time Governor Chafee submitted and the House Finance Committee unveiled it:

8-15-10. Receipt and use of funds. — There is hereby established in the judicial department a restricted receipt account referred to as “Third Party Grants.” The judicial department shall have the authority to receive and expend monies from gifts, devises, grants, bequests, or donations. The judicial department is authorized to enter into any contracts necessary to obtain and expend those funds.

The legislators took the extra step, too, of placing this unspecified “Third Party Grants” fund on the list of restricted receipt accounts that don’t have to kick back 10% to the general fund.  A quick online search suggests that the state judiciary has, in fact, been able to receive and “expend” grants in the past. So, the first question is: Why?

That question has multiple quick-growing sprouts: Who is going to give the judiciary “gifts” and such?  Are “donations” to the judiciary tax deductible? Will there be any public control over how the judiciary can solicit and spend the resources of this slush fund?  Is it wise to give the judiciary this level of independence from the other branches?  Was any consideration given to the bright beacon that such a fund would create for corruption?

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