Federal judiciary warns of impact of budget cuts

WASHINGTON Tue Mar 12, 2013 3:26pm EDT

People line up for admission at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington October 1, 2012. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

People line up for admission at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington October 1, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The federal judiciary on Tuesday warned of the consequences of compulsory budget cuts on court operations nationwide.

If the cuts imposed by the Congress remain in place, funding for federal courts this year will drop to about $6.6 billion, down around $350 million, or 5 percent from fiscal year 2012, the Administrative Office of the Courts, the national management body for the judiciary, said in a statement.

The judicial branch is one of the government entities affected by the budget stand-off between President Barack Obama and Congress, which led to a series of automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration, taking effect on March 1.

The cuts could lead to up to 2,000 employees being laid off or the introduction of a furlough program that would lead to a 10 percent pay cut for those affected, the administrative office said.

The impact on the current fiscal year, which runs until the end of September, would be felt across a number of court services, including probation, drug testing, mental health treatment and the processing of civil and bankruptcy cases.

Funding for court security systems would also be cut by 30 percent, the statement said.

The budget issue was the main topic of discussion when the Judicial Conference, the federal judiciary's policy-making body, met in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

Chief Judge William Traxler of the Richmond-based 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, the chairman of the executive committee, told reporters that the judiciary had to make do with what it was given.

But, he said, "we worry about it detracting from our ability to meet our constitutional responsibilities."

Judge Thomas Hogan, the director of the administrative office, outlined the impact of sequestration in more detail in a letter to Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley last week.

Hogan said in his letter to Grassley that the measures "will be difficult and painful to implement."

Beyond the current fiscal year, the judiciary "cannot continue to operate at such drastically reduced funding levels" while carrying out its required duties, he added.

Grassley had pressed the judiciary for concrete details on its plans after voicing skepticism that the cuts would be as devastating as Hogan had outlined in an earlier letter.

In a statement on Tuesday, Grassley said that the more detailed review provided by Hogan showed that the court system "was able to better distribute sequestration cuts without the drastic measures they originally warned about."

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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Comments (3)
OneOfTheSheep wrote:
“Grassley said that the more detailed review provided by Hogan showed that the court system ‘was able to better distribute sequestration cuts without the drastic measures they originally warned about’.”

Since both major parties agree that the present hemorrhaging of federal funds is unsustainable, and that cuts in excess of the value of the present Sequester will be required to return to fiscal sanity, it appears obvious that more than a few have been (and remain) less than “forthcoming” with “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

No, Chicken Little, the sky is not falling.

Mar 12, 2013 4:40pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
fred5407 wrote:
Yah know, when a ship has too much ballast you have to pump some out to improve the speed and steering of the vessel. For too long these agencies have been operating on a cost plus basis. I am sure that a 20 percent cut in personnel could be made with little or no change in caseload or production.

Mar 12, 2013 5:08pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
mikea12345 wrote:
So what, make the cuts, the Fed is way to big and out of control….

Mar 12, 2013 8:17pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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