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November 2010

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

 

Judiciary Makes Appeal on Fiscal Year 2011 Funding


As Congress begins work on the final fiscal year 2011 appropriations bills, the Judiciary appealed for the funds necessary to address increasing workload needs—and warned that shortfalls may delay the administration of justice.

“Without the resources requested in this appeal, continued workload growth may outpace the courts’ ability to keep up.”

—Administrative Office Director James C. Duff

The Judiciary’s FY 2011 request—newly revised to reflect FY 2010 balances—is for a total FY 2011 funding level of $7.14 billion—$97 million below the level approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee and $14 million above the amounts in the bill considered by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government. The Judiciary has operated under a continuing resolution since October 1, 2010, waiting for Congress to pass its appropriations bill.

“We understand that given the fiscal challenges facing the country, funding levels for fiscal year 2011 will likely be extremely tight, and that your committee[s] will have to make difficult funding decisions going forward,” Administrative Office Director James C. Duff wrote to House and Senate appropriators. “At the same time, we must ensure that the United States continues to have a strong judicial system that protects the rights of our citizens.” 

In describing the minimum amount needed by the Judiciary to address its workload needs, Duff warned: “Reductions below these levels may result in delays in the administration of justice.”

Duff cited bankruptcy filings that have increased a staggering 63 percent since June 2008 and a criminal docket driven by the prosecutorial priorities of the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security that bolster border and immigration enforcement. As a result, immigration-related offenses now compose 36 percent of the federal criminal docket and affect not only the border courts, but also district courts across the country. For the 12-month period ending June 30, 2010, the courts heard more than 78,000 criminal cases, an all-time high.

“We understand that given the fiscal challenges facing the country, funding levels for fiscal year 2011 will likely be extremely tight, and that your committee[s] will have to make difficult funding decisions going forward”

—Administrative Office Director James C. Duff

In the past, Congress provided the Judiciary with the resources to respond to increased immigration enforcement and other critical needs, allowing the courts to hire staff to meet workload demands. The resources requested in the Judiciary’s appeal will sustain those staffing gains, as well as allow clerks and probation and pretrial services offices to continue to address critical workload needs in 2011.

“Without the resources requested in this appeal,” Duff cautioned, “continued workload growth may outpace the courts’ ability to keep up, potentially causing delays in the judicial process.”

Included in the appeal, although not a part of the Judiciary’s own appropriation, is a special plea for inclusion of $92 million for the Los Angeles courthouse project. The project represents the Judiciary’s top space priority, and the funding reflects the final appropriation required to complete this much-needed and long-overdue project in one of the busiest courts in the country.