Happy New Year! I'd like to start off by welcoming the court's newest judicial officer, the Honorable Don R. Franchi, to the bench. Judge Franchi comes to us with a number of years of family law experience and he is a welcome addition to the court.
I also wanted to address how the court is managing itself during this challenging fiscal period. We anticipate having significant (in some cases, unprecedented) financial challenges in 2009 and, most likely, 2010. This said, our court has been preparing for these challenges since early 2008 and have, so far, absorbed state-mandated budget cuts. I believe that we can weather the challenges of the future by continuing to plan strategically. Current budgetary issues have presented all of us with a need to do "more with significantly less" this year. In anticipation of the current resource reductions, we are holding open a number of vacant positions in all of the divisions within the court and we've undertaken a number of efforts to reduce spending while minimizing any negative impact to the public that we serve. Our court has continuously strived to improve our service while reducing related costs and I'm confident that our strategic planning will successfully meet the challenges of these trying times.
A few months ago, almost six hundred court users completed a survey telling us about their experiences in court. I am pleased to report that for the third successive year our 2008 Public Access and Fairness survey results show that we've improved our scores - and they were already very positive in 2006 and 2007. We are the only court in the state that has facilitated these surveys for three years and I can say with statistical certainty that we're a strong court that is getting stronger. Our trend of continuous improvement is all the more impressive when considering the significant budget cuts we successfully absorbed this year. We are improving our levels of service to the public while reducing our related costs to taxpayers. This enviable achievement positions our court well as we face both current and future challenges.
Here at the court, we work with and for each other to achieve justice; the court is the third branch of government and we are committed to serving the public. To that end, we will continue to offer a number of self-help services for those who need assistance at the court, we will strive to provide excellent customer service, and we will work closely with our justice partners to weather this financial crisis.