| NEW YORK, Sept 30
NEW YORK, Sept 30 Federal courts would continue
to hear and decide cases without interruption if the U.S.
government shuts down on Tuesday morning as a result of
However, the Justice Department has said its attorneys would
seek to curtail or postpone non-critical civil matters in the
event of a shutdown. In addition, some judicial staffers could
be furloughed, while others will be forced to work without pay
until the shutdown ends.
Federal courthouses would remain open under the terms of the
Anti-Deficiency Act, the federal law that calls for "essential"
work to continue in the event that federal funding is frozen.
Most judicial services are considered essential; judges would
keep working, legal filings would still be processed and federal
defenders would continue to be assigned to indigent defendants.
For the first two weeks, the courts would use revenue from
filing fees and long-term appropriations that are not part of
the annual budget to pay its staffers as normal, according to a
memorandum from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts
sent last week. Courts were encouraged to conserve as much as
possible by deferring non-crucial expenses.
Once those funds are exhausted, employees deemed
non-essential would be furloughed without pay. Those considered
essential would continue to work without pay, though they would
be entitled to retroactive money after the government resumes
business. Jurors would also be forced to wait until after the
shutdown ends for payment.
The chief judge in each district would have broad latitude
to determine which services and staff members were "essential"
and which could be put on hold for the duration of the shutdown.
"Each court is going to be different," said Karen Redmond, a
spokeswoman for the administrative office.
In many cases, a government shutdown would mean little
change in the day-to-day operation of the courts, which would
continue to accept filings, hold hearings and conduct trials.
In New York, Loretta Preska, the chief judge for the
Southern District, said in a memo to staff that she had deemed
all current employees essential.
A spokeswoman for the district, Stephanie Cirkovich, said,
"We're not going to see an interruption in service, even after
Thomas Bruton, the court clerk for the Northern District of
Illinois in Chicago, said officials there would not make any
determination regarding essential staff until they know for
certain that the shutdown will last more than two weeks.
DEFERRING PURCHASES, PAYING FOR TRAVEL
The memo from the courts' central administrative office said
judges should not prioritize between criminal and civil cases.
During a shutdown, courts would eschew non-essential expenses,
such as training, purchasing equipment and supplies and paying
While judges would continue to hear cases, the Justice
Department said it would ask to postpone appearances in civil
and bankruptcy cases as long as it did not compromise the safety
of human life or the protection of property under the terms of
the Anti-Deficiency Act.
The courts' administrative office instructed judges to "be
sympathetic" to such requests. In the event that a judge orders
a government attorney to appear, the Justice Department said it
would comply and provide the minimum staffing needed to do so.
Criminal cases would continue to be heard without delay or
interruption, the Justice Department said.
Judicial officials cautioned that furloughing any staff
would strain a court system already feeling the effects of the
automatic budget cuts known as sequestration. And they said that
the financial impact on employees and court-appointed lawyers
who would not be paid during a shutdown should not be minimized.
"They still have mortgages," said Edward Friedland, the
executive director of New York's Southern District. "They still
have bills to pay."