Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Sequester cuts, closures, furloughs hit federal courts

Sequester cuts, closures, furloughs hit federal courts

With no solution in sight to end the automatic federal budget cuts that began in March, federal judiciary officials are announcing plans to close courthouses, limit trials and hearings and furlough federal prosecutors, defenders and U.S. Marshals Service officers, all while warning that the move will compromise the federal court system.

Chief executives from federal courthouses around the country are announcing plans to temporarily lay off workers and to close courthouses to all but essential hearings at least one day per week.

Plans differ from district to district, but this month many trial level federal courts will be closed to all but essential criminal proceedings on Fridays, civil trial and hearing schedules will be reduced, and Federal Defender, U.S. Attorneys, and U.S. Marshals Service will face furloughs.

Other courts, such as the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, will stop hearings at 5 p.m. sharp rather than eliminate a day of holding court.

Meanwhile, federal judiciary officials warned members of Congress that the judiciary has already spent years cutting its costs, so there is little room remaining for sequester-related cuts.

“We cannot reduce our work if we face deep funding cuts,” Judge Julia Gibbons, chair of the Judicial Conference Budget Committee, told members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government last month. “We must adjudicate all cases that are filed with the courts, we must protect the community by supervising defendants awaiting trial and criminals on post-conviction release, we must provide qualified defense counsel for defendants who cannot afford representation, [and] ensure the safety and security of court staff, litigants, and the public in federal court facilities.”

While court officials began implementing extra cost-cutting measures in the month leading up to the sequestration deadline, “no amount of cost containment will offset the major reductions we face from sequestration,” Gibbons said.


Should Justice Protasiewicz recuse herself on gerrymandering cases that go before the Wisconsin Supreme Court?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Legal News

See All Legal News

WLJ People

Sea all WLJ People

Opinion Digests