In an effort to absorb the loss of $400,000 from his budget, Baltimore State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms said he would virtually shut down his office for six days between November and March, sending his staff on unpaid furloughs and halting prosecutions on those days.
And if the state's attorney's office sustained further budget cuts, Mr. Simms warned, prosecutors would have to "discontinue juvenile prosecutions and all cases solely involving property or monetary losses."
Mr. Simms said the furloughs would fall on days in which court dockets are traditionally light, such as the days after Thanksgiving and Christmas, New Year's Eve, Lincoln's Birthday, Good Friday, the day before Passover and Maryland Day.
In addition, vacant staff positions will remained unfilled. Mr. Simms said he currently has three prosecutor and six staff positions vacant.
"We don't have any other choice," said Mr. Simms yesterday. "Our budget is primarily salaries, and we don't have capital programs, equipment or maintenance budgets to cut."
The announcement by Mr. Simms is the latest effort by city agencies to cope with reductions in aid stemming from the state's projected $450 million budget shortfall.
The loss to the city could be as much $26 million, and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke is in the process of deciding how much to cut from key agencies such as the school system, the Police Department and the Fire Department.
But if the cuts get worse -- as Mayor Schmoke warned last week they might -- Mr. Simms said the effects could impede efforts to prosecute crime.
"If we have to sustain another severe cut, we will have to use our personnel to prosecute only those crimes involving violence and drugs," Mr. Simms said. Cases involving property and white-collar crimes would have to be prosecuted "whenever we get around to it."
He said part of the problem his office faces is that policy-makers have not made the administration of the criminal justice system a priority.
Mr. Simms said that while the unpaid furloughs for his staff of about 240 people would result in a direct savings of $221,000 in his office, closing the criminal courts for six days would ultimately increase total costs of the criminal justice system.
Those increased costs would take the form of additional money for incarcerating defendants awaiting trial, increased mailing costs to notify witnesses and defendants of the postponement of trials, and higher costs of rescheduling cases, he said.