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Judiciary Warns of Impact of Deep Cuts for FY 2012

April 06, 2011

Contact: Karen Redmond, 202-502-2600

Balancing continued workload growth and fiscal austerity for fiscal year 2012, the federal Judiciary today asked a Congressional subcommittee for its smallest funding increase on record.

“All of us in the Third Branch are concerned about historic budget deficits and a growing national debt and we understand the need to rein in federal spending,” Judge Julia Gibbons, chair of the Judicial Conference Budget Committee, told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government.  However, Judge Gibbons warned of the “impact on the federal court system and the administration of justice in this country,” of proposed spending cuts, especially in light of requested increases for the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, which will further increase the workload of the federal courts. Overall, the Judiciary’s workload is already at or near record levels in most filing categories.

“We do not have the discretion to decline or defer cases based on resource constraints,” Judge Gibbons said. “We are required to adjudicate the cases that are brought to us regardless of staffing and resource levels in the federal courts.” A large funding shortfall would affect staffing levels, with significant losses in clerks of court and probation and pretrial services offices nationwide.

For fiscal year 2012, the Judiciary seeks $7.3 billion in appropriations, $299 million above the fiscal year 2011 assumed appropriations level.  The Judiciary’s funding requests for its three largest accounts would be for:

  • Salaries and Expenses.  The Judiciary’s largest account funds the bulk of federal court operations, including the regional courts of appeals, district courts, bankruptcy courts and probation and pretrial services offices.  This account requires $5.2 billion for FY 2012.
  • Defender Services.  This program, which provides criminal defense services to indigent defendants under the Criminal Justice Act, requires $1.1 billion in FY 2012 to handle 206,200 defense representations.
  • Court Security. A funding level of $513 million would provide for additional court security officers, cover higher Federal Protective Service costs, and fund improvements to security at federal courthouses.

James C. Duff, Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, testified alongside Judge Gibbons on the need to obtain the funding necessary for the Judiciary, as well as the AOUSC, to meet its responsibilities.

Judge Gibbons noted cost-containment initiatives ranging from a thorough review of organizational, policy and process alternatives to improved courthouse facilities planning that includes the Judiciary’s biggest cost-containment success— limiting the growth in space rent costs. 

“Through a number of process improvements and redesigns,” Judge Gibbons said, “our projected rent payments to GSA are nearly $400 million below the 2012 rent projection made prior to initiating cost-containment efforts” seven years ago. 

Judge Gibbons also noted successes in limiting future compensation costs for court staff, reducing the need for new staff, and containing information technology costs without sacrificing the long-term benefits of investing in technology.

“We are committed to containing costs and exploring new and better ways of conducting our judicial business,” Judge Gibbons said. “Our initiatives have significantly reduced the Judiciary’s appropriations requirements without sacrificing the quality of justice. I know you agree a strong independent Judiciary is critical to the nation. I urge you to provide the funding needed to enable us to maintain the high standards of the United States Judiciary.”