Funding and Budget – Annual Report 2021
Congress appropriates funds for the Judiciary to carry out its constitutional duties and also provides funds to the General Services Administration for courthouse construction and maintenance. The Judiciary is committed to spending public funds in a responsible and cost-efficient way.
Congressional Testimony on Fiscal Year 2022 Appropriations
Judiciary officials in February asked Congress for $8.12 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2022 to fund judicial branch operations. The request included funding to keep pace with inflationary and other budget adjustments, and to pay for program increases, including projected workload changes, courthouse security, cybersecurity, and new magistrate judges.
The budget request reflected an overall increase of 5.2 percent over the previous fiscal year to maintain current services and to fund priority initiatives.
Judge John W. Lungstrum, then Chair of the Judicial Conference Committee on the Budget, testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government. He was joined by Judge Roslynn R. Mauskopf, the Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AO).
“I ask that you consider the constitutional and statutory responsibilities with which the Judiciary is charged,” Lungstrum told lawmakers in his testimony (pdf). “In return, I commit to you that we will continue to be effective and cost-conscious stewards of the funds Congress entrusts to us.”
In her testimony (pdf), Mauskopf outlined branchwide priorities, including employee diversity and inclusion efforts, workplace conduct protections, and growing judicial security needs for federal judges and U.S. court facilities. Mauskopf asked for $100.3 million for the AO, a 4.9 percent increase.
“By providing the resources needed by the AO and the rest of the branch, you are ensuring that the Judiciary can continue to perform its vital role as intended and required,” Mauskopf said.
Lungstrum noted that the COVID-19 pandemic continued to substantially impact federal court operations in 2021, including widespread telework for employees, postponed jury trials, increased use of video and teleconferencing, and new approaches for probation and pretrial supervision.
Although the judicial branch’s more than 33,000 employees performed their duties “admirably during this period of great uncertainty,” Lungstrum noted that the Judiciary anticipated an increase in cases as courts dealt with backlogs that accumulated during the worst months of the pandemic.
Fiscal Year 2022 Funding for the Judiciary
Congress was unable to enact any of the appropriations bills for FY 2022, including the funding bill for the Judiciary, by the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1, 2021. It passed a continuing resolution to keep the government operating and then extended the resolution to Feb. 18, 2022, which allowed Congress additional time to complete work on the spending bills.
After submitting an initial budget request in February 2021, the Judiciary in November sent Congress a revised request for $8.2 billion in discretionary appropriations, a 6.3 percent ($488 million) increase over FY 2021. The revised budget request included funding for judicial and courthouse security needs and IT cybersecurity needs. The Judiciary had sought funding for those needs when Congress considered a supplemental appropriations bill and a governmentwide infrastructure bill in the course of 2021, but the Judiciary’s funding was not included in either measure.
Highlights of the Judiciary’s revised appropriations request included:
- $5.8 billion for the Salaries and Expenses account that funds the courts’ operating expenses, a 7.3 percent increase ($396 million) above FY 2021. The level of funding would support current services across the courts and provide for six new magistrate judgeships, necessary information technology requirements, and investments in cybersecurity protections. It would also provide for critical modernization costs associated with Judiciary information technology systems and applications, such as the case tracking system used by probation and pretrial services officers to support the supervision of people released from prison.
- $1.3 billion for the Defender Services account, a 2 percent ($27 million) increase over FY 2021. The funding would support current requirements, a new diversity fellowship program, and additional federal defender positions to meet critical workload needs, including additional federal defenders in Oklahoma as a result of the Supreme Court’s McGirt decision.
- $705 million for the Court Security account, a 6 percent ($41 million) increase above FY 2021, to support current services, infrastructure costs associated with ongoing courthouse construction projects, investments in the modernization and cyclical replacement of physical access control systems, courthouse hardening, and court security officer staffing.
- $35.2 million for the Fees of Jurors and Commissioners account to support anticipated petit and grand juror costs in FY 2022.
- $586 million for the General Services Administration to fund a new courthouse annex in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and courthouse construction projects in Hartford, CT, and Chattanooga, TN.
Citing “crucial infrastructure needs for courthouse security, courthouse construction, and information technology,” the Judiciary requested $1.54 billion as part of an infrastructure bill considered by Congress in 2021.
In a July 12 letter (pdf) to lawmakers, the Judiciary spelled out crucial infrastructure needs and asked that they be addressed as part of legislative negotiations between Congress and the White House. The letter was signed by Judge Roslynn R. Mauskopf, as secretary of the Judicial Conference of the United States, and Judge John W. Lungstrum, Chair of the Conference’s Budget Committee. The Judiciary listed critical needs in three areas:
Judicial and Courthouse Security: The $389.5 million requested by the Judiciary would improve security protections for judges in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of the 20-year-old son of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas and critical wounding of her husband at their New Jersey home in 2020. It also would bolster security at courthouses after damage to more than 50 courthouses during public disturbances in 2020.
Specifically, the Judiciary sought $112.5 million to harden courthouses to withstand a potentially hostile attack and $10 million to proactively manage security vulnerabilities at all levels of the federal court system. An appropriation of $267 million for the Federal Protective Service would be used to upgrade aging exterior perimeter security cameras at federal courthouses and other court facilities.
New Courthouse Construction: The Judiciary requested $634.3 million for other courthouse needs, including $262.2 for the facility in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Significant earthquake risks have been identified in the existing courthouse complex, in addition to building, space, and security deficiencies. Also requested: $294 million to provide the remaining funding for new courthouse projects in Hartford, CT, and Chattanooga, TN (partial funding was provided by Congress in FY 2021); and $78 million for Capital Security Program projects to address security deficiencies at federal courthouses in Augusta, GA; Fort Wayne, IN; Burlington, VT; and Hattiesburg, MS.
Cybersecurity and IT Modernization: The Judiciary sought $515 million for cybersecurity improvements to respond to increasing threats and attacks on Judiciary IT systems. It would be used for projects to improve risk evaluation and mitigation, accelerate detection and response, and upgrade security. It would also accelerate modernization of core Judiciary business applications, including the replacement of the aging Probation and Pretrial Case Tracking System (PACTS) used to supervise defendants awaiting trial and individuals released from prison.
The Judiciary also had urged Congress to address its urgent security needs in a supplemental appropriations bill drafted in response to the Jan. 6 violence at the U.S. Capitol and to address other needs. A House-passed version of the bill included $182.5 million in judicial security funding. However, the final legislation, the Emergency Security Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, did not include any funding for the Judiciary. The final infrastructure legislation passed by Congress also did not include funding for the Judiciary.
In an Aug. 11 letter (pdf) to Congress, Judge Mauskopf and Judge Lungstrum called the exclusion of security funding “deeply concerning,” saying that “the number of security incidents are increasing and the threat environment is worsening.”
“The continued existence of these threats and vulnerabilities poses serious risks not just to specific judges, court personnel, or facilities, but also to the effective administration of justice in this country,” they wrote.
Fiscal Year 2021 Funding for the Judiciary
In December 2020, the President signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which included fiscal year 2021 funding for the Judiciary. The legislation provided $7.7 billion in discretionary appropriations, an overall increase of 3.1 percent over FY 2020 levels.
Highlights of the Judiciary’s financial plan for 2021, which includes fee collections and available balances in addition to appropriated funds, included:
- $6.2 billion for court salaries and general operating expenses.
- $674 million for court security, which included $451.9 million for court security officers; $84.3 million for Federal Protective Service needs; $103.3 million for security systems and equipment; and $34.5 million for the U.S. Marshals Service and AO costs related to the judicial security program.
- $1.3 billion for defender services, including funding for staffing increases as well as inflationary adjustments to the capital and non-capital panel attorney hourly rates and a $1 above-inflation increase to the non-capital rate (to $155 per hour) for work performed after Jan. 1, 2021. Both the capital and non-capital hourly rates, which refer to rates paid to defense attorneys in capital and non-capital cases, were at the statutory maximums.
- $52.4 million for fees of jurors and commissioners, allowing the Judiciary to fully fund requirements for the petit juror and grand juror needs estimated for FY 2021.