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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. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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