U.S. Criminal and Civil Justice Systems Largely Unaffected By Funding Impasse

Posted 7 months ago

By John P Tretbar

USDOJ colorThe United States justice system will continue operating, despite the lapse in government funding.

Employees of the United States Courts act under a constitutional mandate, and have a contingency funding plan to make sure scheduled court matters go on, and the rights of citizens are upheld.

Paige Wymore-Winn is the Chief Administrative Officer for the U.S. Courts in the Western District of Missouri. Wymore-Wynn says justice marches on.

“Because our mission is to uphold Article Three of the Constitution, we will be required to make sure that all trials, hearings, everything else that’s scheduled does go on as scheduled,” Wymore-Wynn said in an interview.

“We will be at full staff, and remain at full staff, until we are told otherwise. The judiciary as a whole across the nation will be funded for the next two weeks, so we will be on full staff, as I would expect every federal court to be. Beyond that, we will be still conducting the business of the court with essential staff as needed.”

The Department of Justice is comprised largely of employees that are exempted from furloughs.  Political appointees , such as the Attorney General and deputies, and United States Attorneys are exempted.   There are carryover, “no-year” funds appropriated earlier that cover some workers. Other employees are given express authority to continue during an appropriations lapse. Emergency employees are also, for the most part, exempt from furloughs during the government shutdown. More than 96-thousand employees will continue working, out of a total of more than 114-thousand within the Justice Department.

(Find the entire contingency plan here)

Among those employees of U.S. Attorneys deemed “non-essential” are the public information officers. They have been sent home and will be on unpaid leave for the duration of the funding impasse.  This affects mainly reporters, who receive news releases from the PIOs, and the people who consume those journalistic efforts.

Criminal litigation will continue without interruption as an activity essential to the safety of human life and the protection of property.

Civil litigation will be curtailed or postponed to the extent that this can be done without compromising to a significant degree the safety of human life or the protection of property.

As Presidential Appointees, U.S. Attorneys are not subject to furlough. Excepted employees are needed to address ongoing criminal matters and civil matters of urgency throughout the Nation.