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Court to get by on less

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., saying the federal courts are setting “a good example” on cutting costs, noted on Monday that the Supreme Court itself will be asking Congress for less money in its budget for the year that begins next October 1 — fiscal year 2014.  The Court, he said in his annual report on the federal courts, had found ways to save more than $2.2 million on expenses, so it will send to Congress a budget request for $74.9 million — a 3.7% decrease from three years earlier.   The Court had had two increases in its budget for fiscal years 2012, which ended last September 30, and 2013, which started October 1.

Overall, the Chief Justice said, all of the federal courts will be able to operate with “a mere two-tenths of one percent” of the federal government’s entire budget of $3.7 trillion.   The judiciary’s share is just under $7 billion.  But, he stressed, the courts will not be sitting on their achievements, since an aggressive “cost-containment” program is in full swing, and will continue.   Still, he warned Congress, because of progress made so far, “it will become increasingly difficult to economize further without reducing the quality of judicial services.”  In his only mention of congressional discussions to avoid a budget crisis at year’s end, Roberts said justice would be denied if there is “a significant and prolonged shortfall in judicial funding.”

In some past years, Roberts, who as Chief Justice is the head of all of the federal courts, had asked for pay raises for federal judges, but he made no mention of that in his 2012 report.  He did make a plea for Congress to fill existing judicial vacancies, especially those for twenty-seven federal judgeships that have been open long enough to be considered “judicial emergencies.”

He had strong praise for the work of the federal courts’ judges and staffs, and noted that, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy that hit the East Coast, emergency hearings were held in the federal district courts in New York City the day after the storm hit, “working in a building without heat or hot water that was only sparsely lit by gas-fueled emergency generators.”

The Chief Justice also singled out for special praise the late District Judge Mark R. Kravitz, of Connecticut, who died on September 30 of Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  Kravitz had volunteered extensively to aid in the task of court operations besides continuing to handle his own full caseload.

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, Court to get by on less, SCOTUSblog (Dec. 31, 2012, 6:01 PM),