As most of the federal government and those who depend on it brace for a possible partial shutdown, the federal judiciary says there should be no visible disruption in its operations for two weeks.
The judiciary pays its bills in part with fees, which are outside the regular appropriations process, and it says it has enough in reserves to keep its doors open even if Congress does not agree on a budget. The deadline for lawmakers and the White House to agree is Friday.
Dick Carelli, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, said the judiciary is following a plan that it used during shutdowns in 1995 and 1996. In general, he said, there is no prohibition in federal law against using money from fees in such a way.
“There would be no visible change in the availability of the courts and the business of the courts for about 10 business day or two weeks,” Carelli said.
If a shutdown were to last more than two weeks, then individual districts and judges would need to make decisions about which services are essential. Some work, such as that of probation officers, is considered essential under federal law, Carelli said. Jury trials could go forward, but payments to jurors would be deferred, according to a separate statement from the administrative office.
Carelli said he was not aware of any meetings of the Judicial Conference or its executive committee to respond to the possible partial shutdown. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. presides over the conference and executive committee.