U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts said Congress should restore some of the money cut from the federal judiciary budget in 2013, which he said forced staff reductions and delayed trials.
“The future would be bleak” if federal court spending were frozen at the level required by the 5 percent spending cut, known as sequestration, that took effect in March, the chief justice said in his annual year-end report.
“The first consequence would be greater delays in resolving civil and criminal cases,” Roberts wrote. In criminal cases, “those consequences pose a genuine threat to public safety,” he wrote.
The judiciary takes up only 0.2 percent of all federal spending and started reducing costs on its own in 2004, the chief justice said. Since July 2011, federal courts cut staffing by 14 percent, to the lowest level since 1997, although caseloads have risen significantly during the last 16 years, Roberts wrote.
Congress added some money for the judiciary as part of an agreement reached in October to fund government operations. The courts are seeking a $7 billion budget for fiscal 2014 that would restore some staff and funding for programs including probation and pretrial services, as well as drug and mental-health testing and treatment, the chief justice said.
Freezing funds for court security “would result in a deepening threat to public safety at courts around the country,” Roberts wrote.
“It takes no imagination to see that failing to meet the judiciary’s essential requirements undermines the public’s confidence in all three branches of government,” he wrote.
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