U.S. courts find funds to pay employees one more week during shutdown

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. (Bob Andres/AJC)
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. (Bob Andres/AJC)

For the second week in a row, the federal court system has found enough money to pay its employees for another seven days as it tries to work around the partial government shutdown.

The court system’s funds initially were expected to run out on Jan. 11. But that date was extended a week and now it’s been extended through Jan. 25, the U.S. Courts system said in a statement issued Wednesday.

“Obviously, every day we can continue our normal operations is a good day for us,” said Jim Hatten, district court executive in Atlanta.

If no agreement is reached to end the partial shutdown by Jan. 25, the federal court system — such as the appeals courts, district courts and bankruptcy courts — will continue operations. But no court employees are expected to get paid unless more funding is found. This would also apply to jurors called in to hear federal cases.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office, too, was expected to begin furloughing staff last week. Lawyers specializing in terrorism and criminal cases would have remained on the job, except they would not get paid, said U.S. Attorney BJay Pak, who vowed not to compromise public safety.

The Federal Defender’s Office, which represents defendants unable to afford their own lawyers, has enough money to pay its lawyers and staff through the end of January, its director, Stephanie Kearns, has said.

In its statement released Wednesday, U.S. Courts said it had secured an additional week of funding through “aggressive efforts to reduce expenditures.” This includes delaying or deferring expenses, such as new hires, travel and certain contracts.

“The judiciary is continuing these cost-cutting efforts in the hopes of sustaining operations past Jan. 25, but at some point in the near future, existing funds will run out if new appropriated funds do not become available,” the statement said.

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