Representatives of the federal judiciary testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government today, issuing a budget request for $7.22 billion for Fiscal Year 2019. The request reflects an overall increase of 3.2 percent to maintain current services and fund priority initiatives — including $95 million for cybersecurity.
Seven billion dollars is nothing to sneeze at, but it represents a tiny fraction of the overall national budget (currently proposed at $4.41 trillion for FY19). The requested judicial budget is one percent of the White House’s 2019 allocation for national defense alone. It is, in the end, a remarkably small amount of money to fund the operations of an entire branch of government.
N.B. — in the link above, the U.S. Courts helpfully included a video of the entire hearing before the House Appropriations Subcommittee. Remarkably, this act of transparency did not hopelessly compromise the integrity of the federal judiciary. It’s time to bring similar video technology into the courtroom.
It’s all part of the new budget recently signed by the President. It will be the first pay raise for federal jurors since 1990. More here.
Iowa Chief Justice Mark Cady, in his annual state of the judiciary speech, recently warned that years of stagnant funding for the courts are “beginning to tear at the very fabric and operation of our mission.” State funding to the court system for Fiscal Year 2018 remains the same as FY 2017 and lower than in FY2016. From the Des Moines Register:
Today, 182 fewer people are employed by the court system than one year ago, Cady said — a 10 percent reduction in workforce. That includes 115 essential positions that have gone unfilled, he said. Judicial branch employees include judges and magistrates, clerks of court, court reporters, IT staff, juvenile court officers and other administrative staff.
The reduced staffing has caused delays, Cady said, forcing the judicial branch to back off from a promise made two years ago to try all cases on the date scheduled without delays.
“We have been forced to walk back from this pledge because we do not have enough people to do the work to keep it,” Cady said.
Iowa’s juvenile and district courts will not schedule any appearances this coming Friday, and all clerk of court and administrative offices will be closed. Court staff will instead take a mandatory, unpaid furlough day. The move stemmed from budget cuts by the state legislature.
Judge Julia Gibbons, the Chair of the Judicial Conference’s Budget Committee, appeared before a House Appropriations subcommittee yesterday to request $7.2 billion in funding for the federal courts for Fiscal Year 2018. She was joined by James Duff, the Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. The full testimony of both Judge Gibbons and Director Duff are available at the link.