Updated at 6:07 p.m.
The federal judiciary will hand over more than 66,300 square feet of underused office space in court buildings across the country, saving $1.7 million in annual rent.
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts announced this week that space in 31 federal court offices will be returned to the U.S. General Services Administration, which manages court facilities. The space reduction program is part of a series of cost-saving measures the federal judiciary adopted to cope with budget cuts.
The judiciary is rewarding court offices that found ways to reduce space. Chief judges of the courts that participated will receive a share of more than $1.7 million in one-time incentives. The money can be used for general operating expenses.
The federal probation office for the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts, located in Boston, gave up the most space, returning more than 7,600 square feet that cost the court about $305,000 in rent. Other courts gave up space ranging from several hundred to several thousand square feet.
The chief probation officer for the Massachusetts court, Christopher Maloney, said his office reduced its space by finding a way to move staff working in a satellite office into the courthouse in Boston.
Last month, the Judicial Conference adopted a new cost-saving measure calling on the U.S. courts to reduce the overall amount of space used by three percent by the end of the 2018 fiscal year.
Space reductions cost the judiciary money in the short-term to cover relocating and other expenses. Judge D. Brooks Smith, chair of the Judicial Conference's Space and Facilities Committee, said in a statement that the judiciary will see savings in the long run.
“The judiciary has been proactive and a good steward of taxpayers’ dollar," said Smith, who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. "Space reduction is a judiciary-wide effort that must involve every court and every court unit throughout the country. Like it or not, shared sacrifice has got to be the message.”