Federal courts mostly unaffected by government shutdown – at least for now

by Rox Laird | January 8, 2019

Federal courts in Iowa will operate mostly as usual at least through next week, despite the partial government shutdown, according to statements released this week by federal court administrators.

The federal judiciary is on course to continue operating through Jan. 11 using fees and unspent fund balances, court officials around the country were told this week by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. For now, clerks’ offices remain open and electronic case filing and access remains in operation.

The goal is to stretch that through Jan. 18, but the courts will have to pare back nonessential spending. That would allow the court personnel to receive regular paychecks through the end of the month.

Although criminal cases are expected to proceed uninterrupted, some federal courts have issued orders – posted on court internet sites – suspending civil cases in which the government is a party.

No such orders were posted on either the Northern or the Southern District of Iowa websites as of Tuesday morning. Bankruptcy courts for both districts posted notices that while court hearings will be held as scheduled, hearings may need to be rescheduled in cases where an attorney from an executive branch agency involved is not working because of the shutdown.

Court officials were unclear on what happens after Jan. 18.

“If existing funds run out and new appropriated funds do not become available,” the Administrative Office statement said, “the Judiciary will operate under the terms of the Anti-Deficiency Act, which allows ‘essential work’ to continue during a lapse in appropriations. This mission critical work includes activities to support the exercise of the courts’ constitutional powers under Article III, specifically the resolution of cases and related services. Each court would determine the staff necessary to support its mission critical work.”

Meanwhile, all federal trial and appellate judges will continue to receive regular paychecks. Article III, Section 1, of the U.S. Constitution says: “The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.”


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