The federal judiciary is developing contingency plans in the event of a government shutdown next month and urging all federal judges and staff to limit non-salary spending to the essentials, the Administrative Office of the United States Court said in a memo Wednesday.
Judiciary officials are planning to send out guidance to all federal judges, circuit court executives and federal public defenders for managing during a shutdown, James Duff, the director of the administrative office, said in the memo [.pdf].
Duff said the “magnitude of the funding cuts” in a House spending bill, which passed in February, “could potentially result in the loss of a significant number of on-board court staff.” The judiciary, he said, “will take all steps necessary to minimize adverse personnel actions.”
The bill, which President Barack Obama has vowed to veto, reduces overall spending for the federal judiciary by $145 million below fiscal year 2010 and $200 million below the “level needed to maintain base operations and current on-board court staffing levels,” the memo said.
Duff (at left) said he spoke with Chief Judge David Sentelle of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, who chairs the Judicial Conference’s executive committee, and with Judge Julia Smith Gibbons of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, chairwoman of the budget committee.
“With all of this uncertainty and out of an abundance of caution, we are urging chief judges and court unit executives to institute immediately a hiring freeze for all but the most critical vacancies until a final FY 2011 spending bill is enacted,” Duff said in the memo. “We also urge you to defer cash awards and discretionary step increases and to limit non-salary spending to essential expenditures only.”