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Judiciary: Budget cuts would ‘cripple’ federal courts

Federal judiciary officials, announcing the close of six federal court facilities, said automatic budget cuts that will take place if Congress fails to agree on a budget plan would deal another blow to the federal court system.

“[The] biggest threat to our fiscal health in the short term is budget sequestration,” Judge Julia Gibbons, Chair of the Judicial Conference Budget Committee, told the conference on Tuesday.

If Congress does not pass a 10-year budget plan to reduce the deficit, the automatic sequester is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 2, 2013.

“We estimate sequestration would cut the Judiciary’s budget by more than $500 million below the 2012 funding level,” Gibbons told members of the committee this week. “Quite simply, a reduction of this magnitude would cripple the operations of the federal judiciary and our constitutional mission would be compromised due to these sudden, arbitrary budget cuts.”

Meanwhile, under an ongoing judiciary-wide cost-cutting initiative, the committee agreed to close six court facilities, though none of the closed courthouses has a full-time resident judge. The closure of the facilities in Wilkesboro, N.C., Beaufort, S.C., Meridian, Miss., Amarillo, Texas, Pikesville, Ky., and Gadsden, Ala., will save an estimated $1 million, officials said.

In other action, the conference also urged courts to consolidate administrative services to save costs, ended the practice of printing and mailing slip opinions, and approved a program to provide access to court opinions through the Government Printing Office’s Federal Digital System.

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