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Federal Courts Will Struggle If Shutdown Continues Past Oct. 18

by | Oct 14, 2013 4:30am
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Posted to: Congress, Courts

Courtesy of the US District Court website Connecticut’s three federal courthouses will be closed Monday for the Columbus Day holiday, but when they re-open Tuesday they will be evaluating just how much longer they can continue paying jurors and operating with all its staff.

As the federal government shutdown drags into its third week, a notice posted on the U.S. District Court of Connecticut’s website Friday warned that jurors may be called to serve, but will not receive payment if the court runs out of funding.

“Payments to jurors will be made as long as funds are available,” according to the notice posted by Chief Clerk Robin Tabora. “If funds are not available, courts may continue to call jurors and assure them that they will be paid, although the payment may be delayed.”

In an Oct. 1 interview with the New Haven Independent, Chief U.S. District Court Judge Janet Hall said the courts had enough funding to remain fully staffed for about 10 business days. The money has come from the court fees, as well as federal appropriations not tied to a specific fiscal year.

Hall told the New Haven Independent that she would have to make a decision Oct. 15 about which staff are essential to operations under Article III of the U.S. Constitution. Eight out of 64 clerical staff have already been cut over the past few years and the Judicial Branch has been hit hard by sequestration — the automated budget cuts that took place earlier this year.

The federal judiciary’s budget already was cut $555 million, or roughly about 8.3 percent, this year. That means spending levels are around where they were in 2009.

Federal public defenders in Connecticut were forced to take six furlough days and decline nine cases, which will instead be assigned to private attorneys even though it’s likely those private attorneys will be allowed to bill more hours at a greater cost to the government. Some employees of the U.S. Attorney’s Office who handle civil cases were furloughed Oct. 1.

But for the most part business will proceed as usual for the rest of this week.

“Spending rates and fund balances will continue to be monitored closely in hope that adequate funds may be available to allow courts to operate through the end of the work week — October 18,” the notice reads.

It’s unclear what happens after Oct. 18, but as of Sunday evening there was still no deal between Congress and the White House over spending cuts or changes to the Affordable Care Act.

The Electronic Case Management system will remain open and “all proceedings and deadlines remain in effect as scheduled, unless otherwise advised.”

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