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Expanding Caseload Fuels Judiciary Request for Resources in 2011

March 18, 2010

Contact: Karen Redmond, 202-502-2600

Submitting the smallest funding increase requested in more than 20 years, representatives of the federal Judiciary today asked a House subcommittee to adequately fund the courts in the coming year so they can cope with anticipated increases in case filings.

“Our workload is increasing, nearly across the board, and if Congress approves the President’s requests for the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, and bankruptcy filings remain high, our workload will continue to grow,” Judge Julia Gibbons, chair of the Judicial Conference Budget Committee, told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government.

As a result, Judge Gibbons said, the Judiciary is requesting a 6.8 percent funding increase for fiscal year 2011.

“In order to handle a growing workload and sustain a fair and expeditious delivery of justice, the federal courts must have the resources needed to do their work,” she said. “We do not have programs that we can cut in response to a budget shortfall.”

Judge Gibbons appeared with Administrative Office Director James C. Duff before the Subcommittee.

“The President’s budget increases spending on border and immigration enforcement efforts, particularly along the Southwest border, as well as spending for prosecuting financial fraud and drug offenses,” said Judge Gibbons. “This influx of crime fighting resources will result in more criminal cases in our district courts, more work for our probation and pretrial services officers, and increased caseload in our defender services program, which provides assigned counsel to eligible defendants.”

She noted that additional courts of appeals cases could be seen as the DOJ adds immigration judges and staff to clear the backlog of cases in the immigration courts.

The civil caseload in the federal courts is expected to increase 6 percent, driven by asbestos diversity case filings and anticipated class action litigation involving imported drywall; the criminal caseload is expected to increase 3 percent; and a 20 percent increase is expected in bankruptcy filings, with the economy as a major factor in the number of personal bankruptcies. Work per-case also increased as a result of the 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, with new docketing, noticing and hearing requirements required for bankruptcy courts.

In addition, the number of convicted offenders under the supervision of federal probation officers, which hit a record in 2009, is expected to increase 3 percent in 2010. To improve supervision of this workload, probation officers have begun using evidence-based practices (EBP), a tool that involves identifying and applying clinical and administrative practices proven to consistently produce specific, intended results.

“We believe that the Judiciary’s evidence-based approach to offender reentry and our strong focus on achieving positive outcomes will reduce the high costs associated with recidivism,” Judge Gibbons said.

In evaluating risks to the public and the costs of recidivism, Judge Gibbons noted that the Bureau of Prisons spends $71 per day to incarcerate an offender, but the Judiciary spends only $10 per day to supervise an offender in the community.

For fiscal year 2011, the Judiciary is seeking a 6.8 percent overall increase, or $469 million, above the fiscal year 2010 enacted appropriations level. The courts’ Salaries and Expenses account, which funds clerks and probation offices nationwide, requires a 5.9 percent increase.

Eighty-two percent ($385 billion) of the increase requested for fiscal year 2011 would fund adjustments to base for pay and benefit increases for judges and staff, space rental increases, an anticipated increase in the number of on-board senior Article III judges, and costs associated with Criminal Justice Act representations.

The remaining $84 million requested is for program enhancements, including:

• $43 million for additional staff and costs to address workload requirements, as well as additional magistrate judges and staff;

• $26 million for telecommunications and information technology enhancements;

• $5 million to increase the non-capital panel attorney rate to $141 per hour;

and

• $2 million for court security, including a national contract for vehicle barrier maintenance at courthouses and a facial recognition pilot program; and education and training enhancements at the Federal Judicial Center.

Judge Gibbons noted that the Judiciary has a comprehensive strategy to cut costs—such as rent caps, courtroom sharing, an altered salary progression policy for court staff and law clerks, and IT server consolidations.

“We are not only judges and staff supporting the Third Branch,” she told the subcommittee, “we are also citizens and taxpayers and we recognize fully the need for fiscal austerity in a period of mounting federal debt.”

But while these initiatives have significantly reduced the Judiciary’s appropriations requirements without adversely impacting the administration of justice, she stressed the importance of the Judiciary receiving the resources needed to address its workload needs.

“I ask the Committee to continue this commitment to the federal courts by providing funding sufficient to allow us to perform our statutory and constitutional duties,” Judge Gibbons said.