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May 2009

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This article is in the news archives --- for current news go to the Third Branch News.


Funding Requested for Critical Southwest Border Needs

On behalf of the Judicial Conference, Administrative Office Director James C. Duff has written to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to ask that emergency supplemental funding for the Judiciary and the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) be included in the FY 2009 War Supplemental Appropriations Bill now being considered by Congress.

A significant increase in criminal caseload has occurred over the last few years due to the number of drug, immigration, and weapons cases filed in courts along the southwest border. This caseload is projected to grow even more as agents are added to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Supplemental funding is needed by the USMS for secure holding facilities to handle the resulting influx of prisoners, and by the courts for additional magistrate judges, probation and pretrial services officers, other court staff, jurors, and defender services to address projected workload increases.

“The USMS has identified the immediate need for $32,282,000 to expand and improve prisoner holding and movement areas such as cellblocks, restricted passageways, elevators for prisoners, sally ports where prisoners are unloaded at the courthouse, and interview rooms in existing court facilities along the Southwest border,” Duff wrote in a letter last month to Congressional appropriators. “In addition to the security risk these dangerous conditions pose, if not addressed, prisoner production for court proceedings will be significantly impacted.”

For the additional judicial officers, staff and other related expenses, the Judiciary would require $10 million. New Article III judgeships for the border court region are part of a comprehensive judgeship request made by the Judicial Conference in March 2009.

Also, in light of the escalating drug cartel violence along the border and concerns about the personal safety of federal judges, supplemental funds are requested for the USMS to develop a security response plan for judges away from the courthouse.

“The Judiciary has been working closely with the USMS to develop a feasible and cost-effective plan to provide enhanced personal safety for these judges before an incident occurs,” Duff wrote. The USMS estimates the cost of a plan combining awareness education, crisis planning, and the issuance, where appropriate, of personal security devices for judges, to be $4 million.