Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) wants the federal courts to come up with a more comprehensive plan for how to absorb major funding cuts triggered by the Budget Control Act of 2011, better known as sequestration or the “fiscal cliff.”
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts sent an October 2 analysis to Senate Judiciary Committee members detailing how the 8.2 percent across-the-board cuts would strip $555 million from the courts and would be "devastating."
Unless Congress and the White House resolve the stalemate over the country's budget woes, those cuts could mean layoffs of one out of every three court staff, suspended pay to private attorneys, significant cuts to court security, and a suspension of pay for jurors, the analysis said.
But Grassley, the ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote a letter to Judge Thomas Hogan, director of the A.O., asking for a more comprehensive plan that incorporates other operational expenses, such as travel and conferences.
Grassley criticized the courts earlier this year for spending more than $1 million for a United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit conference in Hawaii. He said in a statement Thursday that he would like to see those types of gatherings cut before layoffs and court closings.
“The entire federal government is going to be absorbing some difficult cost saving measures. But, it’s disappointing that the federal judiciary outlined draconian measures in a vague email instead of providing a comprehensive plan,” Grassley said in a statement. “It seems to present a Chicken Little mentality without much effort and forethought into avoiding major disruptions.”
The Judicial Conference of the United States and its committees are working through the budgets to prepare as best they can for cuts, and the federal courts have been taking cost-cutting measures that included eliminating 1,100 positions, said courts spokesman Charles Hall.
Grassley has asked the A.O. to respond to his letter by December 4.