Court Operations During the Shutdown


With the Federal Government shut down, U.S. courts had resources to continue until October 15 using “fee income and no-year appropriated funds.” The Supreme Court has now announced that it will continue operations until October 18 (Friday), and then let us know whether it will still be working next week.

All U.S. Courts will remain open through Thursday, October 17, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (“AO”). Some courts, like the Eastern District of Louisiana, are following this guidance and will let us know next Thursday whether operational resources still exist. Other courts, like the Eastern Districts of North Carolina and New York, have already issued standing orders that deem themselves and employees “essential,” and direct continuing operation. See ; .

But the shutdown has “severely restricted spending” (the AO’s words), limiting travel and expenses and continuing furloughs in both U.S. Attorney’s and Federal Defenders’ Offices. “Essential” lawyers are left to do the work of several staffers plus themselves. CJA fees for private lawyers have been reduced to $110 per hour, and even then they haven’t been paid – or received expense reimbursements – since September 17 (payments were withheld in the last weeks of the last fiscal year, because the previous “Sequester” had left the Fund without funds). And yet these civil servants – including staffers at the Federal Bureau of Prisons – work without pay, or the appropriate resources to do their jobs.

The entire system has not yet ground to a halt, but only because civil servants value our Republic – and want to avoid discipline for failing to fulfill their duties. It is abominable that too many of our elected officials don’t share that same spirit, risking the Republic’s collapse rather than using the tested political process.