UPDATED AT 8:14 p.m.
In his annual year-end report on the federal judiciary, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. on Tuesday warned that continued severe budget cuts would result in courtroom layoffs, trial delays and a “deepening threat to public safety at courts around the country.”
Perpetuating “a hard freeze at the sequester level,” Roberts said, would extend an emergency $15-per-hour rate reduction for private lawyers representing indigent criminal defendants, and reduced security for court personnel. It would also “pose a genuine threat to public safety” by postponing criminal trials, while delays on the civil side would mean “commercial uncertainty, lost opportunities and unvindicated rights.”
Roberts said he would have preferred to focus on other matters in his annual report, but “the budget remains the single most important issue facing the courts.” The entire federal judiciary accounts for just two-tenths of one percent of total federal outlays, he noted, but the cuts imposed by sequestration have severely hampered court operations.