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. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues