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Government shutdown would have little impact on federal legal system

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Even if the U.S. Congress fails to pass a short-term budget measure and prevent a government shutdown before midnight Friday, the various arms of the Indiana federal legal community will remain operating mostly as usual – at least for the time being.

The clock is ticking toward 12 a.m. when a one-week stopgap resolution expires. If federal lawmakers and President Barack Obama don’t break the impasse, most nonessential government services will come to a halt. Negotiations have been ongoing all day and both political sides agreed on $38 billion in spending cuts, but no final resolution had been reached by deadline for this story.

At the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, spokeswoman Karen Redmond said the judiciary would use non-appropriated fees to continue full operations for the first weeks of a government shutdown. Each appellate, District, and bankruptcy court – as well as the judges – would continue those operations as part of their exercise of judicial power, and each would individually determine the number of court staff, probation, and pretrial service officers necessary to adequately maintain those court services. Notices are posted on each of Indiana’s federal courts, including the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, about how the shutdown would impact that court.

Clerk Laura Briggs in the Southern District said the court might have to limit its operations to those services deemed necessary and essential – such as accepting new cases – if a shutdown lasts longer than two weeks.

Since the courts will be open on Monday regardless, Briggs said that a planned event featuring 7th Circuit Judge Ann C. Williams will proceed as scheduled after initially being pushed back from February because of inclement weather.

But not everything would go on as usual.

Both U.S. Attorney’s Office districts directed questions to the Department of Justice, and spokesman Robert O’Donnell responded that all criminal litigation will continue without any interruption as “an activity essential to the safety of human life and the protection of property.”

“If there is a government shutdown, the Department will be forced to stop or significantly curtail an array of different activities and services that will have a national impact, including most civil litigation, community outreach to victims of crime, and the processing of grants,” he wrote in an email.

One question that concerns Chief Judge Richard Young in the Southern District of Indiana is whether background checks on potential magistrates will continue, impacting the ongoing review of Indianapolis attorney Denise LaRue who was confirmed as a federal magistrate judge earlier this year. She’d be able to begin as soon as a background check is complete since funding for the new position was authorized to begin April 1.

It wasn’t immediately clear if a shutdown would impact the Federal Community Defenders in Indiana, as some nationally have said they have enough funding on hand to continue operating on a temporary basis.
 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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