Chief Justice Warns of Fiscal Cliff Effects on Federal Courts
Chief Justice John Roberts warned leaders in the other branches of the federal government that the fiscal cliff could result to the delay or denial of justice for the people the courts serve. During his annual year-end report on federal judiciary, Roberts said that the federal courts have already made significant cuts in their funding and represents only two-tenths of 1 percent of the entire federal budget. He said that additional reduction to their budget would be hard to overcome.
President Barack Obama said that an agreement to avert the fiscal cliff of spending cuts and tax increases is already within sight. Senate and House leaders continued with their closed door meetings with White House officials, which included Vice President Joe Biden. They try to reach a temporary spending and tax agreement.
Roberts noted that the judicial branch of the federal government receives less attention when it comes to spending. He added that an aggressive cost-containment strategy has been in place since 2004. He said that the judiciary branch is outside the political arena but they continue to address the financial challenges from within.
The federal court system as well as its administrative offices operates on an annual budget of around $7 billion. The amount includes judges trying and hearing cases and appeals, managing pretrial, defender and probation offices, and maintaining the bankruptcy court system. Around 62 percent of the budget goes for personnel costs.
Roberts said that the Supreme Court requested for a 2.8 percent decrease in its $75.55 million operations budget in fiscal year 2012. He added another 3.7 percent decrease for the fiscal year 2014. At present, there are 75 judicial vacancies. 32 nominations made by the president are still pending as they wait for Senate confirmation. There are now 874 federal judges, including the 9 from the Supreme Court, the district and appeals courts, and the Court of International Trade.