Court Battles

Government shutdown closes in on high court

Anna Moneymaker

The Supreme Court is about to feel the effects of the partial government shutdown.

On Monday afternoon, as the shutdown entered its third work week, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts said it’s now aiming to keep paid operations going through Jan. 18, a week longer than its previous estimate.

But to make that happen, some changes are being made.

{mosads}“In an effort to achieve this goal, courts have been asked to delay or defer non-mission critical expenses, such as new hires, non-case related travel, and certain contracts,” the office said in a statement.

The Supreme Court’s press office said the announcement applies to the high court as well.

Since the shutdown began on Dec. 22, the Supreme Court and lower federal ones have stayed up and running by drawing on court fees and other funds that aren’t dependent on congressional appropriations.

If that money runs out before new funds are appropriated, the Supreme Court said it will reduce spending it considers noncritical, in addition to curtailing some nonessential public services.

The court said it will stay open for essential operations such as hearing oral arguments, issuing orders and opinions, and processing case filings.

The court has yet to close during a government shutdown. SCOTUSblog reported that in 2013, when the government was shuttered from Oct. 1 to 17, justices heard oral argument in all 11 cases on the court’s docket that month.

And when the federal government sustained its longest shutdown — a 21-day stretch from December 1995 into January 1996 — court proceedings were reportedly uninterrupted.

Scott Bomboy, editor-in-chief of the National Constitution Center, wrote last month that the Constitution stipulates that Congress, the Supreme Court and the president all get paid no matter what.

The Supreme Court justices returned to the bench Monday after about four weeks off during the holidays to hear the first arguments of the new year. The court is scheduled to hear 11 cases this month.

Justices have several requests pending before them. The Trump administration has made a flurry of filings in recent weeks, including requests for the court to settle disputes over the administration’s decision to wind down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and to ban transgender people from serving in the military.

The Administrative Office said some federal courts have already granted requests from the Department of Justice to suspend, postpone or hold in abeyance civil cases in which the government is a party, subject to further consideration or until appropriated funds become available.

Criminal cases are expected to proceed uninterrupted.

The office also said courts have been encouraged to work with their district’s U.S. attorney, U.S. marshal and federal protective service staff to discuss necessary steps to maintain court operations.

“The General Services Administration has begun to reduce operations and courts are working with their local building managers to mitigate the impact on services,” the office said.

President Trump confirmed to reporters Friday that he threatened to keep roughly a quarter of the federal government closed for a long period of time, months or even years, if Congress doesn’t appropriate $5 billion for his proposed border wall.

The partial government shutdown has already affected local courts in the District of Columbia that are funded by the federal government. For example, the Marriage Bureau, which is part of D.C. Superior Court, is closed.

The bureau is responsible for issuing marriage licenses, as well as authorizing religious and civil celebrants to perform weddings in the nation’s capital. Additionally, the law library, child care center and the committee that reviews applications for admission to the District of Columbia Bar are all closed due to the shutdown.

Tags Donald Trump Government shutdown

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