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Chief Justice Roberts says cuts to judiciary budget becoming too deep

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Describing the immediate impact changes in judicial budgets have on court staff, Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts used part of his address to the 7th Circuit Bar to highlight the fiscal constraints judges and courts are facing today.

“We’re not like the typical government entity that can slow down this program or cut this particular activity,” Roberts said. “When we face budget cuts, it means furloughing or laying off people.”

roberts-john-mug Roberts

Roberts gave the keynote speech May 6 during the annual dinner of the 7th Circuit Bar Association and Judicial Conference of the 7th Circuit. This year’s conference was held in Indianapolis.

With ties to the Hoosier State, the chief justice borrowed from a popular song when he told the crowd he was happy to be “back home again in Indiana.”

Roberts charmed the audience with history lessons and self-deprecating humor during his 17-minute speech. He also gave a report from the Supreme Court of the United States, saying the high court is going through cases “at a pretty steady clip.” The court has heard 77 cases this term, selected from more than 8,000 petitions. To date, it has issued more than 40 decisions.

At the close of his remarks, Roberts turned his attention to the “serious budget challenges” the judiciary is encountering.

During fiscal year 2012, the judiciary – which includes federal courts and the Administrative Office of the United States Courts – received a total appropriation of $6.97 billion, two-tenths of 1 percent of the total U.S. budget of $3.7 trillion, according to the 2012 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary.

Roberts told the audience he was not interested in engaging in a debate about fiscal policy, but he emphasized the judiciary is different from other government budget line items. For less than one percent of the federal budget, he added, the government gets not only the entire judicial branch, but a very efficient branch as well.

“At the same time,” Roberts said, “our budget is people.”

To this end, the judiciary is working to make sure the “people who control our budget” understand how much of the branch’s budget relies on individuals.

The 2012 year-end report states that nearly 85 percent of the personnel budget was for support staff including clerks, secretaries and administrative personnel. These workers are slated to receive a cost of living raise in 2013, their first in three years.

“We are also working very hard,” Roberts continued, “to come up with a way of accommodating whatever cuts we are facing in a way that limits the impact on the women and men who work in the judiciary and ensures that our commitment to providing equal justice under the law is not compromised in any way.”

The 2012 year-end report highlighted the judiciary’s efforts to contain costs by streamlining business practices and improving efficiency.

Roberts was introduced by U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Elena Kagan. Before she recounted the warm way Roberts welcomed her to the court, she praised former Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, who supported her nomination.

Lugar was at the annual dinner.

Kagan pointed out that not many senators vote for the justices nominated by presidents of the opposite party. However, Lugar was one who did during his term in the U.S. Senate.

“To vote for (U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia) Sotomayor and to vote for Kagan … those are lonely votes. Those are very hard votes,” Kagan said. “They take a lot of integrity and a lot of courage, and the person who cast them, Sen. Lugar, has a lot of courage and a lot of integrity.”

Roberts said he echoed Kagan’s heartfelt testimonial to Lugar. He told the former senator, “You did more than just vote for me, however. You introduced me (in your capacity) as a host state senator for which I am very, very grateful.”•

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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