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Federal judge to Congress: Go to hell over the shutdown



by Anugrah Kumar October 14, 2013


Newscast Media WASHINGTON—With the government shutdown now coming close to affecting the judiciary, which has already lost staff and part of its budget due to the sequester, a senior federal judge has expressed his frustration telling Congress to "go to hell" on his blog.

"It is time to tell Congress to go to hell. It's the right thing to do," writes senior U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf on his blog.

An appointee of President George H.W. Bush in 1992, Kopf let his disappointment out at a time when all district and circuit chief judges will soon have to decide which employees are essential and which will be furloughed as non-essential.

"Given the loss of employees already suffered by the judiciary on account of the sequester and otherwise, why shouldn't every remaining employee of every federal district court (including FPD employees) be declared "essential?" the judge asks.

If the chief judge and all the district judges were to issue such an order, most staff would be protected from prosecution under the Anti-Deficiency Act, Kopf adds. "Such an order would set up an inter-branch dispute worth having… Congress would have two choices. It could do nothing in which event Congress loses its ability to destroy the judiciary by failing to pass a budget. Or, Congress could go batsh*t, and the judiciary and Congress could have it out."

The courts have not been affected much thus far thanks to fee income and prior-year appropriations. But this is expected to change within a week. Even otherwise, the courts have had to cut hundreds of support staff positions over the last two years. The judiciary also saw a 5 percent reduction in its budget in the last fiscal year.

The partial government shutdown was in its 13th day Sunday, but little progress was visible in Congress in striking a budget deal. Even more worrisome is the fact that the negotiations are also tied to avoiding a default if the government's borrowing limit is not raised by Thursday.

Judges are highly frustrated, says the chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. "Court budgets have essentially been slashed to the bone, with us losing nationwide thousands of judicial employees performing very important tasks…We're being told to furlough where we're already cut to the bone," Judge Richard Roberts, a Clinton appointee, tells Politico.

"We don't exert the kind of control to keep up resources to match the need," adds Roberts. "We don't have ultimately any authority to set appropriations Congress decides on. We do not necessarily get to decide what the White House sends to [the Office of Management and Budget] and to Congress. We can't go out and stir up constituents to do talking for us. Structurally, there's a bit of an imbalance."   

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