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Judiciary Seeks to Avert Cuts
As one continuing resolution neared expiration in mid-November and Congress considered yet another CR to keep government running, the Judiciary’s fiscal year 2006 appropriations bill still was under discussion by House and Senate conferees. And it is possible that whatever funding level they approve may be subject to across-the-board cuts.
In October 2005, the Senate passed its version of H.R. 3058, the FY 2006 Transportation, Treasury, the Judiciary and Housing and Urban Development (TTHUD) Appropriations Bill. The Judiciary received $5.778 billion, an increase of 6.5 percent over FY 2005, and nearly $11 million more than the House-passed bill. In early July 2005, the House approved total funding for the Judiciary of $5.768 billion.
The Judiciary submitted its appeal to the House and Senate conferees on the bill, requesting a total of $5.801 billion, the minimum necessary for the Judiciary to carry out its duties. However, the conferenced bill may fund the Judiciary below the Senate funding level. Planned across-the-board cuts also may jeopardize the Judiciary’s final funding levels.
Both the Chief Justice, in a letter to the congressional leadership, and the Judicial Conference in a resolution have urged Congress to exempt the Judiciary from any across-the-board reductions.
If Congress applies across-the-board cuts to all non-defense appropriations bills, the cuts would, as the Judicial Conference said in a resolution, "severely jeopardize the performance of our constitutional duties." The Conference noted that across-the- board cuts applied to Judiciary appropriations in FY 2004 and 2005 resulted in the loss of about 1,800 court employees.
"Office of Management and Budget officials inform us that no other component of the entire federal government was required to make such large staff reductions as the Judicial Branch was compelled to do," the Conference said in its resolution. At the same time, the courts had to absorb growing law enforcement and homeland security related workload, with fewer probation officers and clerks’ office personnel. The Conference urged Congress and the President "to exclude the Judiciary from any across-the-board reductions and to provide funding at least at the level contained in the Judiciary’s request to House and Senate conferees."
Chief Justice John Roberts also has written to President Bush and the congressional leadership requesting that the Judiciary be exempted from any FY 2006 across-the- board cut to its enacted appropriations. He told Congress that a two percent across-the-board reduction applied to the Judiciary’s fiscal year 2006 appropriation appeal level would require the courts to reduce staffing by approximately 1,000 additional employees. Roberts made clear that further reductions in the Judiciary’s funding would seriously harm the ability of the courts to fulfill their mission.