Funding/Budget – Annual Report 2017
Congress provides funding to the Judiciary to carry out its constitutional duties and also appropriates money 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 2018 Appropriations
Representatives of the federal Judiciary in May 2017 asked Congress to provide $7.2 billion in fiscal year 2018 to fund the continuing operations of the judicial branch, as well as to enhance cybersecurity, ensure sufficient security at federal courthouses, and adequately provide for counsel for indigent defendants.
“As you make decisions on fiscal year 2018 funding for the agencies under the subcommittee’s jurisdiction, we ask that you take into account the Judiciary’s unique constitutional role in our system of government,” Judge Julia S. Gibbons, chair of the Budget Committee of the Judicial Conference, told a House appropriations subcommittee. “In return,” Gibbons said, “we commit to you that we will continue to be good fiscal stewards, cutting costs where possible, spending each dollar wisely, and making smart investments to achieve long-term savings.”
Gibbons testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government. James C. Duff, director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, also testified. They presented the Judiciary budget request for fiscal year 2018.
The FY 2018 budget request reflected an overall increase of 3.9 percent in order to maintain current services and to fund priority initiatives. Cybersecurity is the Judiciary’s top administrative priority, and the request included funding to strengthen cybersecurity capabilities. The request also funded the Judiciary’s defender services program, including a $6 hourly rate increase above inflation for payment of attorneys in non-death penalty cases; provided for sufficient security at courthouses by updating security systems, equipment, and information technology; and provided resources for several facilities-related enhancements to address safety issues and reduce future rent costs.
In their testimony, Gibbons and Duff detailed several examples of ongoing Judiciary initiatives to save money, including space and rent reductions, and the growing use of shared administrative services in the courts to reduce duplicate processes.
Fiscal Year 2017 Funding for the Judiciary
For most of fiscal year 2017, the federal government, including the Judiciary, operated under a series of temporary spending measures – known as continuing resolutions – that lasted until a final appropriations bill was enacted. On May 5, 2017, the President signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017, providing the Judiciary with $6.9 billion in discretionary appropriations, a 2.2 percent ($149 million) increase above fiscal year 2016. It marked the fourth consecutive year that the Judiciary received essentially full funding of its appropriations requirements, enabling it to maintain current services and to invest in new initiatives or improve services vital to its operations.
Fiscal Year 2018 Funding for the Judiciary
On September 14, 2017, the House passed the fiscal year 2018 Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill, which includes funding for the Judiciary, GSA, the Treasury Department, and other agencies. On November 20, the Senate Appropriations Committee bypassed the subcommittee and full committee markup process and posted online its version of the FY 2018 FSGG bill. The House-passed bill provides the Judiciary with $7.09 billion in discretionary appropriations, a 2.3 percent ($161 million) increase above FY 2017. The Senate bill provides the Judiciary with $7.19 billion, a 3.8 percent ($261 million) increase above FY 2017 and $101 million more than the House bill. It is clear that the Judiciary remains a funding priority for Congress.
The entire federal government, including the Judiciary, began fiscal year 2018 under a series of continuing resolutions to keep the government open pending final action on the 2018 appropriations bills. A continuing resolution approved by Congress in December kept the government operating until January 19, 2018.
In September 2017, the Judicial Conference approved an updated list of courthouse construction priorities nationwide. The Fiscal Year 2019 Courthouse Project Priorities (CPP) list is a two-part document that includes projects for which the Judiciary will recommend funding and a prioritized list of future courthouse project requirements. The sites recommended for funding are: Harrisburg, PA; Huntsville, AL; and Fort Lauderdale, FL. On the future courthouse project list are facilities in Chattanooga, TN; San Juan, PR; McAllen, TX; and Norfolk, VA.
The CPP is based on the Asset Management Planning (AMP) process, which was adopted by the Conference in 2008. The AMP is a comprehensive facility-planning process that identifies the Judiciary’s most urgent space needs, addresses cost-containment concerns, and incorporates industry best practices. It rigorously assesses all federal courthouses to determine current and future needs, taking into account a broad range of factors, including a building’s condition, functionality, security, compliance with space standards, courtroom and chambers’ needs, and caseload growth. The CPP is updated annually and transmitted to Congress, which appropriates funds to GSA for courthouse construction.