More than 18,000 Justice Department employees, including a significant number of lawyers who handle civil matters, were furloughed during the shutdown. In a letter this morning to the entire department, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said he was "grateful to be able to welcome the entire Department of Justice back to work!"
"All of you are essential to protecting the American people and to performing our critical law enforcement functions," Holder wrote. "Our collective work is absolutely crucial, and I don't want another day missed."
In the days after the government shutdown October 1, Main Justice and U.S. attorney's offices nationwide, citing the lack of appropriations, asked courts to postpone civil litigation. Some judges granted blanket stays, while other judges made case-by-case decisions.
Not all Justice Department requests were granted. In the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly denied a request to stay the government's antitrust case against the proposed US Airways/American Airlines merger. Over the objection of the government, U.S. District Judge William Pauley III in the Southern District of New York earlier this week lifted the stay on the American Civil Liberties Union suit challenging a phone surveillance program.
“I regret the anxieties and hardships the shutdown has caused you and your families,” Holder wrote. “While you return to your work for the Department, I know that the financial consequences of the lapse in appropriations will continue to be of great concern to you.”
Holder ended the letter with this: "Let's get back to work!"
National Law Journal photo by Diego M. Radzinschi.