FY 2016 Funding Meets Judiciary Needs
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 omnibus appropriations bill passed by Congress contains $6.78 billion in discretionary funding for the federal Judiciary, a 1.2 percent increase from the previous year and essentially equal to the Judiciary’s final budget request.
James C. Duff, Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, said, “Final FY 2016 funding for the federal courts and to GSA for our courthouse construction program reflect the hard work and strong leadership of Judge Julia Gibbons, chair of the Judicial Conference Budget Committee, the tireless efforts of Judge D. Brooks Smith, chair of the Judicial Conference Space and Facilities Committee, many judges throughout the country, and the Administrative Office staff.”
Duff added, “The judiciary’s appropriation also is a reflection of the success of our judiciary-wide cost containment efforts, which have not only saved money, but also have assured Congress that we are careful and responsible stewards of the funds they provide us.”
“This is an excellent result,” Judge Gibbons said. “This is the third consecutive year that the Judiciary has received essentially full funding of its appropriations requirements. We appreciate that Congress has, since sequestration, treated the Judiciary as a top funding priority.”
The bill includes one-year extensions of authorizations for nine temporary District Court judgeships that otherwise would have expired. The legislation also provides $948 million to the General Services Administration, which is expected to fund construction costs of the top eight courthouse construction projects on the Judicial Conference’s courthouse priority plan, and partial funding for a ninth.
New courthouses or annexes will be designed and built in Nashville, Tennessee; Toledo, Ohio; Charlotte, North Carolina; Des Moines, Iowa; Greenville, South Carolina; Anniston, Alabama; Savannah, Georgia; and San Antonio, Texas. The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, project will receive partial funding.
The Judiciary has 11 courthouses on its construction priority list, and most of the nine projects receiving funding have been on that list more than a decade. Only one new federal courthouse had been funded in the previous five years.
The FY 16 funding bill also includes $53 million to GSA for new construction and acquisition of facilities that are joint U.S. Courthouses and federal buildings in Greenville, Mississippi, and Rutland, Vermont.
“This is an unprecedented infusion of resources for new courthouse construction,” said Judge Smith. “Unsafe, overcrowded, and inefficiently designed courthouses threaten the ability of courts to successfully carry out their Constitutional and statutory duties. We are enormously grateful to Congress for recognizing both the integrity of the Judiciary’s planning process, as well as the central role the courthouse occupies in assuring the public’s confidence in its justice system.”
Temporary District Court judgeships were extended in the Northern District of Alabama, District of Arizona, Central District of California, Southern District of Florida, District of Kansas, Eastern District of Missouri, District of New Mexico, Western District of North Carolina, and Eastern District of Texas.
Overall, the judiciary’s discretionary appropriation was $80 million greater than in FY 2015. Among the bill’s provisions:
- The Salaries and Expenses account, which funds court operating expenses, received $4.93 billion, or $73 million (1.5 percent) more than FY 2015. That includes $26 million for information technology initiatives to improve court operations and $15 million to expand the use of evidence-based practices by probation officers to reduce offender recidivism.
- The Defender Services account received $1.0 billion. That is a 1.1 percent decrease, but amounts to full funding when combined with prior year balances. Court-appointed panel attorneys will see their hourly rate for non-death penalty cases increase to $129, from the current $127.
- The Court Security account received $538 million, an increase of $24 million, or 4.7 percent. That will help fund a new staffing standard to increase the number of court security officers at courthouses.
- The Juror Fees account received $44 million, a decrease of $8 million, or 15.3 percent, but when combined with prior year balances is sufficient to fund this account.