"Shutdown Averted, Courts Still Face Budget Woes," is by Todd Ruger at the National Law Journal.
The federal judiciary never felt the full brunt of the 16-day government shutdown, since alternative funds allowed courtrooms and clerks’ offices to operate normally when other government operations stalled.
The deal that reopened the government Thursday, however, leaves in place most of the $350 million budget cuts to the judiciary made earlier this year—a situation that a top judiciary official this summer predicted would be "devastating for the federal courts."
The last-minute deal to reopen the government did provide a relatively small bump of $51 million in annual appropriations for the federal courts and for public defenders, out of a $6.7 billion overall budget. Part of that, a $26 million increase for defender services, would primarily go to pay the backlog of attorney fees under the Criminal Justice Act, which funds court-appointed private counsel. It could also help alleviate some of the pressure on federal public defender offices around the country that were forced to put lawyers and staff on furlough at times this year.
The judiciary will now continue its unusually public push to convince Congress to fully undo the spending cuts that came as part of government-wide reductions called sequestration, said U.S. Circuit Judge Julia Gibbons, chairwoman of the budget committee of the U.S. Judicial Conference.
"Certainly we will continue the efforts that we’ve made over the last number of months and we’ll keep giving Congress our message about the need for adequate funding," Gibbons, who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, said in a telephone interview Thursday.
The Constitution Project, a bipartisan legal watchdog group, said Thursday that the $26 million for defender services would not restore adequate staffing or prevent further furloughs in many offices across the country.
"While we are grateful budget negotiators recognized the need to stop the bleeding in the public defenders offices, Congress will need to provide much higher levels of funding when they pass a budget if they want to allow federal defenders to carry out their constitutionally required duties," Virginia Sloan, president of The Constitution Project, said in a written statement.
Earlier coverage of the shutdown and sequestration's impact on the federal courts begins at the link.