The impact of the sequester on the federal courts

The impact of sequestration on the federal courts will be direct and immediate,  U.S. District Judge Julia Gibbons said this week at the courts’ biannual Judicial Conference.

That’s particularly true because the judicial budget is so heavily driven by personnel costs for judges, court staff, public defenders, jurors, and  security officers and for the space they use and the technology and equipment they need.

According to a release from the Judicial Conference, up to 2,000 employees could be laid off or furloughed one day per pay period this fiscal year. These cuts are in addition to the loss of over 1,800 court staff over the last 18 months, which represents a 9 percent decline. Staffing levels right now are at March 2005 levels and could drop another five to ten percent by the end of September.

Just a few ways those cuts will be felt:

Public Safety: There will be fewer probation officers to supervise criminal offenders released into the community. Funding for drug testing and mental health treatment will be cut 20 percent.

Cases Delayed: With fewer available clerks’ office staff and the need to focus on criminal cases, there could be significant delays in the processing of civil and bankruptcy cases, which could adversely affect economic recovery.

Court Security: There will be a 30 percent cut in funding for court security systems and equipment and court security officers will work fewer hours, exposing courts and those who use them to possible vulnerabilities.

Federal Defenders: Staffing levels of federal public defenders will decline, which could result in delays in the appointment of defense counsel, and payments to attorneys appointed under the Criminal Justice Act could be delayed several weeks at the end of the year.

Information Technology: Deep cuts will be made for IT programs that the courts depend on for daily case processing and which have enabled the Judiciary to achieve efficiencies and limit budget growth.

10 Comments

  1. Alex

    March 12, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    They still have enough money to pay for huge federal pensions that are double what the private sector pays. Let them tighten their belts just like everyone else !.

  2. Doug Gibson

    March 13, 2013 at 7:31 am

    Alex,

    Cite a source which:

    a) says pensions for the average federal worker are double those in the private sector, and

    b) comes up with a compelling argument for why it doesn’t matter that public sector employees get paid less competitive wages during their careers.

    Oh, and bonus points if your source addresses

    c) the fact that many public sector positions (the military, police, firefighters) involve the stress of facing life-threatening situations in ways that private sector jobs do not.

  3. Alex

    March 13, 2013 at 7:51 am

    http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/overpaid-federal-workers

    This is just one site that compares government wages and benefits, but there are numerous others that support my argument. USA Today just ran a large article the other day on excessive pensions for federal workers.Private sector wages have stagnated , and most companies have done away with their pension plans, and now use mostly self contributed 401-k plans. Federal workers can work 20 or 25 years, retire early, and get unbelievable pensions compared to the private sector. Wake up and smell the roses Doug.

  4. Doug Gibson

    March 13, 2013 at 9:14 am

    Alex,

    In other words, you’ve got nothing. You claimed federal pensions were double private pensions, and have cited nothing that backs up your claim.

    You go on to mention studies of wages, but your studies don’t take account of the longevity of federal workers in their jobs (meaning they tend to be older and earn more). Nor do they take account of location: yes, government economists may receive higher salaries, but almost all of them live in D.C.

    And of course, there are other studies (including the one mentioned here) that contradict the studies your side likes to throw out.

    Finally, let me pull this nugget from your cited source:

    Federal workers receive health insurance, retirement health benefits, a pension plan with inflation protection, and a retirement savings plan with a government match. They typically receive generous holiday and vacation schedules, flexible work hours, training options, incentive awards, generous disability benefits, and union protections.

    So federal workers receive what private sector employees should be getting, but don’t, mostly because of worker-unfriendly corporate policies. Private-sector wages have stagnated over the past 30 years, but apparently you think that’s the way it should be.

    Finally, of course, this post is about the sequester, which will effectively cut the pay of thousands of federal employees. So even when you get what you apparently want, you’re still not satisfied.

  5. Alex

    March 13, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Doug, the sequester is a joke,,$45 Billion in cuts compared to a trillion dollar deficit is nothing but peanuts. Can you imagine trying to come up with another $ 955 Billion in cuts just to get a balanced budget. People would be really squealing then ! Herein lies the problem because private companies can’t run a deficit ,or they go out of business. Government simply borrows more money. Sorry Doug but you can’t win this argument, because the facts speak for themselves.

  6. Doug Gibson

    March 13, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    Alex,

    What facts? You still haven’t backed up your “double private pensions” claim. Oh, but deficits increased during the worst economic downturn since The Great Depression. And they’re going down rapidly. That’s definitely a clincher for your argument. Touché!

  7. Alex

    March 14, 2013 at 8:01 am

    You can’t provide information to someone with a closed mind like yours Doug.Incidentally the deficit for just February alone was $ 209 Billion and is now almost $ 500 billion for the year so far which makes your argument almost funny..

  8. Doug Gibson

    March 14, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    Alex,

    Deficit for 2012: $1.1 trillion.
    Projected deficit for 2013: $845 billion.

    There’s also this from the CBO page I cited:

    As a share of economic output, the deficit has fallen in recent years—from 10.1 percent of GDP in 2009 to 9.0 percent in 2010 and 8.7 percent in 2011.

    Oh, and that Fox News article I cited for the 2013 figure also says this:

    Each month’s deficit is volatile and can be affected by calendar quirks that shift government spending or revenue from one month to another.

    And, as I’m sure you’re aware, the “fiscal year” begins on September 30th, so “almost $500 billion for the year so far” means “pretty much what the CBO forecast, with the expected April surplus yet to be included.”

    Almost funny, indeed.

  9. Doug

    March 14, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    Guess that revised deficit is good news, other than it is mainly on the backs of the middle class due to the additional payroll taxes that were raised by the dems this year. Let’s see the taxes on the “rich” are $60 billion…..and ~$150 billion for the middle class. Yeah those dems are champions of the working guy!

  10. Alex

    March 15, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Maybe you can get excited about an $845 Billion deficit Doug, but to me it is quite sad that we are leaving our children this monstrous pile of debt that will substantially lower their standard of living. The CBO says this figure will go to almost $20 Trillion by 2017, and will be even higher if the GDP doesn’t grow substantially. Just a 1% increase in treasury yields will cost us over $300 Billion a year in interest costs alone. None of these figures even include the $3 Trillion phony money debt created by the Federal Reserve which is basically off the books. Wake up and smell the roses Doug !