Bar Association president discusses budget cuts

William Robinson, U.S. Bar Association president, lectures Monday evening. || Lidia Vazquez/The News

The Curris Center Theater was filled with students and faculty as William (Bill) Robinson III addressed problems courts face when dealing with budget cuts.

The lecture was a part of the 35th annual Harry Lee Waterfield Distinguished Lecture Series in Public Affairs held Monday.

In the speech, titled “Justice on a Shoestring: The Real Cost of Underfunded Courts,” Robinson expressed concerns about the lack of knowledge people have of democracy.

Robinson is the American Bar Association president and Member-in-Charge of the Kentucky offices of Frost Brown Todd LLC, a regional law firm with nine offices in five states.

During the lecture Robinson talked about how college students are the future of the American society.

He said court funding should be a top priority of the justice system to ensure people have access to justice services, but budget cuts would not allow the courts to be as accessible as they are now, causing a breakdown of what he called a great need.

“No one would accept closing an emergency room, or the local fire house or police station, one day a week,” Robinson said. “Our justice system is just as important.”

Robinson said getting involved and educated with the court system is the first step to bettering the future. He said cutting funds hurts the democracy of the state and the country.

“State and local legislators have to make difficult choices when resources are less and when revenue is less,” Robinson said. “They have to entertain claims from schools, parks, roads and from all worthy recipients of money that they allocate so that our socio-economic environment continues to runs successfully.”

He said the state courts are facing an economic crisis and the budget cuts could lead to a downward spiral of legislation.

Kelly Hurlbut, sophomore from St. Louis, Mo., said Robinson’s presentation was insightful and eye-opening.

“I was unaware of the funding issues occurring in the state courts and the impact it has had on our judicial system,” Hurlbut said. “He was very knowledgeable and used lots of examples to back up his statements.”

Prior to the lecture, the recipients of the Harry Lee Waterfield and the Laura Ferguson Waterfield Governmental Studies scholarships were announced.

Recipients were Grant Grissom, junior from Hickman, Ky., Nathan English, senior from Benton, Ky., Michael Shepherd, senior from Coxs Creek, Ky., Jennifer Marks, junior from Madisonville, Ky., Colton Givens, senior from Welchs Creek, Ky., Chancie Coleman, senior from Benton, Ky., Chase Brasher, senior from Paducah, Ky., and Taylor Miller, sophomore from Almo, Ky.

This was the first year for the Laura Ferguson Waterfield Scholarship and it was organized to encourage students to pursue an interest in the department of government, law and international affairs.

The lecture was sponsored by the department of government, law and international Affairs and Pi Sigma Alpha.