U.S. Courts Plan Shared Services to Alleviate Cuts

     (CN) – Federal courts are developing plans to share administrative services across the country to cope with $350 million in budget cuts, the judiciary said Thursday.
     In an “effort to contain costs and manage resources in a difficult budget climate,” the courts plan to “voluntarily share administrative services,” according to a statement from Third Branch News, the newsletter maintained by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
     Federal courts are absorbing their share of the $85 billion in automatic cuts from sequestration under the Budget Control Act. Earlier this year their budgets were cut by $350 million, to roughly $6.6 billion.
     Passed as a temporary measure after the 2011 debt ceiling showdown, the sequester kicked in March 1 after President Barack Obama and Republican lawmakers failed to agree on how to reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion in the next 10 years.
     The federal courts hope that the shared administrative services model, borrowed from the business sector, will contain costs in austere times, improve services, and help the courts serve as “good stewards of the taxpayer’s money.”
     “Different court units sharing the services of staff and other resources to perform ongoing administrative services results in a reduction of personnel and costs for those services,” said Judge Julie Robinson, chair of the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management. “The committee believes that voluntarily sharing administrative services can help courts both to address the impact of a budget unlikely to meet our full funding requirements and establish a sustainable approach to what will most likely be an austere budget environment for many years.”
     As the policy-making body for the federal court system, the Judicial Conference has asked each district to put into effect shared administrative services plans. The judiciary will share funds among courts “regardless of type, geographical location, or judicial district or circuit,” according to the statement from the courts.
     “Sharing administrative services may help courts retain highly skilled people,” Alec Leddy, a clerk of court for the District of Maine, told The Third Branch News. “Potentially, courts that need specialized skills can buy services by the hour or the project from another court. Some courts are even splitting salaries and sharing employees.”
     The announcement comes after the Judicial Conference sent a letter to Congress on May 14 asking for $72.9 million in emergency funding.
     If granted, $41.4 million would fund the courts’ defender services account, and $31.5 million would be used for the courts’ salaries and expenses account.
     “The judiciary is confronting an unprecedented fiscal crisis that could seriously compromise the Constitutional mission of the United States Courts,” according to that seven-page letter, signed by Judicial Conference Chair Julia Gibbons and Judicial Conference Secretary Thomas Hogan.

%d bloggers like this: