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Cost–Conscious Federal Courts Trim Needs, Ask for FY 2008 Funding
In March hearings on Capitol Hill, representatives of
the federal courts asked Congress for enough funding to cover basic
operating costs in fiscal year 2008, while assuring both Houses that the
Judiciary is doing its part to contain costs and enhance productivity.
Judge Julia Smith Gibbons, chair of the Judicial
Conference Budget Committee, and Administrative Office Director James C.
Duff appeared before both the House and Senate Appropriations
Subcommittees on Financial Services and General Government on March 21.
Their testimony is available online at www.uscourts.gov/Press_Releases/appropriations032107.html
"The Judiciary recognizes that the Administration and
Congress are rightfully concerned about overall federal spending and
budget deficits and that you face tough choices,” said Gibbons. “It may
seem obvious, but it is worth noting that every item in our budget
request relates to performing the functions entrusted to us under the
Constitution. We have no optional programs; everything ultimately
contributes to maintaining court operations and preserving the judicial
system that is such a critical part of our democracy."
"We all know the important role that an independent
federal Judiciary plays in our constitutional system," said
Representative Jose Serrano, (D-NY), chair of the House Appropriations
Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, in his
opening statement. "But the Judiciary, like other government entities,
needs sufficient resources to properly function and perform its
Gibbons noted that while spending for non-defense
homeland security has more than tripled since 2001, "appropriations for
the courts’ operating budget have increased only 33 percent to meet
workload requirements, but onboard staffing levels have declined by 5
percent." The funding provided by Congress in 2007, she said, will allow
the courts to begin to close this gap between staffing levels and
workload. "It is therefore critical," Gibbons stressed, "that the courts
be funded at a current services level in fiscal year 2008 in order to
sustain the staffing gains funded in fiscal year 2007."
Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), chair of the Senate
subcommittee, asked Gibbons to comment on reports that perimeter
security provided by the Federal Protective Service (FPS) has not been
maintained or repaired, compromising security in those courthouses.
"This doesn’t appear to be a new problem; this appears to
be a recurring problem," he said, adding, "I take this very seriously."
Durbin cited the murder of members of Judge Joan Lefkow’s family, a
judge Durbin had recommended to the federal bench in the Northern
District of Illinois.
Gibbons responded that the concerns with FPS security
were important enough that the Judicial Conference “felt compelled to
take a position on it and to seek a change
in our situation with respect to responsibility for our
exterior perimeter security. Obviously, we all have a much more
heightened awareness today than we did a number of years ago of the need
for such security. And we are reluctant to let these things go once we
find out about them and realize that we’re not having difficulties that
are of an isolated nature."
Gibbons also told the subcommittees that cost containment
is a top priority for the Judiciary. “The courts realize it is
necessary, and we have had great cooperation Judiciary-wide as we have
moved forward on cost-containment initiatives,” she testified.
Fiscal Year 2008 Budget Request
The Judiciary is requesting a 7.6 percent overall increase above fiscal year 2007 enacted appropriations.
"The courts’ Salaries and Expenses account requires a 6.7
percent increase for fiscal year 2008," said Gibbons. "We believe this
level of funding represents the minimum amount required to meet our
constitutional and statutory responsibilities," she said. "While this
may appear high in relation to the overall budget request submitted by
the Administration, I would note that the Judiciary does not have the
flexibility to eliminate or cut programs to achieve budget savings as
the Executive Branch does."
The Judiciary’s funding requirements essentially reflect
basic operating costs, which are predominately for personnel and space
requirements and would account for 86 percent ($390 million) of the $452
million increase requested. The remaining $62 million is for program
enhancements, of which $22 million would increase the non-capital panel
attorney rate from $96 to $113 per hour.
"I realize that fiscal year 2008 is going to be another
tight budget year as increased mandatory and security-related spending
will result in further constrained domestic discretionary spending,"
Gibbons said. "The budget request before you recognizes the fiscal
constraints you are facing." The Judiciary’s cost-containment efforts
to date have significantly reduced the Judiciary’s appropriations
requirements, without adversely impacting the administration of justice.
Gibbons urged the subcommittees to fund the Judiciary’s
FY 2008 request fully in order to continue to maintain the high
standards of the federal Judiciary. “A funding shortfall for the federal
courts,” she cautioned, “could result in a significant loss of existing
staff, cutbacks in the levels of services provided and a diminution in
the administration of justice.”
|Appropriation Account || |
|FY 2008 |
| || || |
| ||Available* || |
U.S. Supreme Court
|Salaries & Expenses ||$60,143 ||$63,405 ||$62,576 ||$66,526 |
|Care of Building & Grounds ||5,568 ||12,959 ||11,427 ||12,201 |
| || |
| Subtotal ||65,711 ||76,364 ||74,003 ||78,727 |
|U.S. Court of Appeals for |
The Federal Circuit
|23,783 ||26, 300 ||25,311 ||28,442 |
|U.S. Court of International Trade ||15,342 ||16,182 ||15,825 ||16,632 |
Courts of Appeals, District Courts
Other Judicial Services
|Salaries & Expenses ||4,330,190 ||4,691,196 ||4,480,521 ||4,778,856 |
|Defender Services ||709,830 ||803,879 ||776,283 ||859,834 |
|Fees of Jurors ||60,705 ||63,079 ||60,945 ||63,081 |
|Court Security ||368,280 ||410,334 ||378,663 ||421,789 |
| || |
| Subtotal ||5,469,005 ||5,968,488 ||5,696,412 ||6,123,560 |
| Administrative Office ||69,559 ||75,333 ||72,377 ||78,536 |
| Federal Judicial Center ||22,127 ||23,787 ||22,874 ||24,475 |
| Judicial Retirement Funds ||40,600 ||58,300 ||58,300 ||65,400 |
| U.S. Sentencing Commission ||14,256 ||15,740 ||14,601 ||15,477 |
| || |
| ||$5,698,588 ||$6,256,542 ||$5,975,732 ||$6,427,150 |
| Supplemental ||18,000 ||0 ||0 ||0 |
| Vaccine Injury Trust Fund ||3,795 ||3,952 ||3,971 ||4,099 |
| || |
| Total, The Judiciary ||$5,720,383 ||$6,260,494 ||$5,979,703 ||$6,431,249 |
|* FY 2006 appropriated funds include the effect of across-the-board discretionary rescissions where applicable. |