US Courts Seek $7.2 billion to enhance security and more

Representatives of the federal Judiciary today asked Congress to provide $7.2 billion in Fiscal Year 2018 to fund the continuing operations of the judicial branch, as well as to enhance cybersecurity, adequately provide for funds for counsel for indigent defendants, and to ensure sufficient security at federal courthouses.

“As you make decisions on fiscal year 2018 funding for the agencies under the Subcommittee’s jurisdiction, we ask that you take into account the Judiciary’s unique Constitutional role in our system of government,” Judge Julia S. Gibbons, chair of the Judicial Conference’s Budget Committee, told a House appropriations subcommittee. “In return,” Gibbons said, “we commit to you that we will continue to be good fiscal stewards, cutting costs where possible, spending each dollar wisely, and making smart investments to achieve long-term savings.”

Gibbons testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government. She was joined by James C. Duff, Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. They presented the Judiciary budget request for Fiscal Year 2018, which starts October 1, 2017.

“We were grateful for the funding we received in the recently passed FY 2017 budget. And, every day we endeavor to validate the wisdom of your support through both the quality of our work and our commitment to efficient and cautious use of the resources you have provided,” Duff told the subcommittee.

The fiscal year 2018 budget request reflects an overall increase of  3.9 percent, in order to maintain current services and to fund priority initiatives. Cybersecurity is the Judiciary’s top administrative priority and the request includes funding to strengthen cybersecurity capabilities. The request also funds the Judiciary’s defender services program, including a $6 hourly rate increase above inflation for payment of attorneys in non-death penalty cases; provides for sufficient security at courthouses by updating security systems, equipment, and information technology; and seeks resources for several facilities-related enhancements to address safety issues and reduce future rent costs.

Gibbons told the subcommittee that the proposed cuts to non-defense discretionary spending could significantly impact the Judiciary at a time when the Administration has indicated that it plans to increase border security and law enforcement activities.

“We do know that increased criminal prosecutions always increase the workload of the courts and heavily impact Judiciary resources in many ways,” Gibbons said. “And increased immigration enforcement has a like effect on the courts, since appeals from DOJ’s Board of Immigration Appeals go to our courts of appeals.”

Both Gibbons and Duff detailed in their testimony several examples of ongoing Judiciary initiatives to save money, including space and rent reduction, and the growing use of shared administrative services in the courts to reduce duplicate processes.

“As we continue our efforts to reduce cost growth in the Judiciary’s budget, I emphasize that no amount of cost containment will offset budget cuts or even flat funding in fiscal year 2018,” Gibbons said. “Our budget request is reflective of the cost containment policies we have put in place and is the amount we require to fulfill our mission.”

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