Court Battles

Federal judiciary has enough funds to operate through end of January


The federal court system is estimated to have enough funds to sustain its operations through Jan. 31, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AO) announced Tuesday.

The AO, an agency within the judicial branch that supports federal courts, said it has employed various various tactics to conserve funds and sustain its paid operations.

{mosads}“Most of the measures are temporary stopgaps, and the Judiciary will face many deferred payment obligations after the partial government shutdown ends,” an AO spokesperson said in a statement.

“In recent weeks, courts and federal public defender offices have delayed or deferred non-mission critical expenses, such as new hires, non-case related travel, and certain contracts. Judiciary employees are reporting to work and currently are in full-pay status.”

This is the third extension the agency has announced, though it has acknowledged it will not be able to provide another extension past Feb. 1 if a funding bill is not approved.

The AO said that federal courts would continue to operate under the Anti-Deficiency Act, which would cover only the most crucial tasks, if a spending bill is not signed to reopen the government by the end of the month.

Each court would determine the staff necessary to support its “mission critical work,” which would include “activities to support the exercise of the courts’ constitutional powers under Article III, specifically the resolution of cases and related services.”

The federal judiciary has continued to operate while funding for the Department of Justice (DOJ), which oversees U.S. courts, lapsed on Dec. 22 at the start of the shutdown.

Some courts, at the urging of the DOJ, have suspended or postponed civil cases involving the government, though others have refused to do so. The courts have also been encouraged to coordinate with their district’s U.S. Attorney, U.S. Marshal and Federal Protective Service to determine the staff levels necessary to maintain court operations.

The partial government shutdown entered its 32nd day on Tuesday, extending its record as the longest shutdown in U.S. history. About 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed or required to work without pay during the shutdown, with agencies including the Departments of Homeland Security, Agriculture, Treasury, Commerce, Interior and State all being shuttered, among others.

The shutdown has dragged on as the White House and congressional Democrats are at an impasse over President Trump’s demand that $5.7 billion for a border wall be included in any spending bill to reopen the government.

The Senate will vote on two bills this week, one including the funds and the other not, though it is possible neither breaks the 60-vote threshold needed to pass. The Democrat-controlled House has passed several spending bills that do not include border wall subsidies.

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