ABA Journal


Executive Branch

Federal courts to stay open through at least Oct. 17, even if shutdown continues

on October 10, 2013


The release was not by the Department of Justice. It was by the Executove Office of the United States Courts. Completely different branches of the federal government on a Constitutional scale (Article II vs Article III).

By nDLawyer on 2013 10 11, 10:59 am CDT

Was going to say the same thing. Martha Neil, please edit the article or publish a correction on this typo, which conflates one coequal branch of government with another.

By BenMossEsq on 2013 10 11, 11:31 am CDT

Here's a thought - why don't all the federal agencies "severely restrict spending" on the front-end, so there would be no need for shutdowns, debt ceiling increases, etc? The judiciary has shown that the doors can stay open.

By Tsatb on 2013 10 11, 12:05 pm CDT

@3 That's like saying hospitals should tighten their budgets by operating only emergency rooms.

By IndyCanary on 2013 10 11, 12:52 pm CDT

Regardless of your view on the shut-down and its faults, causes and effects, one thing we can learn from it is which Federal functions are really necessary, and of those that are, if they can be run more efficiently. We can now assess the Bloat Factor in real time.

Before the shut-down, a local Federal clerk's office complained publicly that it was down from 13 to 5 clerks, and they are barely keeping up with the work, how important they are, how busy they are, how hard they work, how stressful but yes they were getting it done, barely. And they do work hard in that office. But his plan backfired; he had admitted and confirmed that 5 could do what 13 had done previously, a bloat factor of almost 200%.

To be fair, we should give him back 3 clerks, but now that he has proven the point, not 8.

Watch for the same dynamic when the shut-down is over and the loafers return to work along with the dedicated hard workers. There are plenty of both; too many of one and not enough of the other.

Sadly, the Federal work force is now worse than the unions, with bloat entrenched and no one with the gumption, integrity and sometimes, ability, to get rid of the dead wood. The USPO is the same way; no wonder it, too, is failing.

By Hadley V. Baxendale on 2013 10 11, 3:10 pm CDT

@5 Whether 5, 8, or 13 is the right number of clerks doesn't turn on the fact that the 5 still on the job are managing to barely keep up with the work on a short term basis. You can't expect someone to run a marathon at the speed of a sprint. And you certainly shouldn't punish the employees who are making an extraordinary interim effort by denying them relief when the crisis is over. What law firm with 8 of its secretaries out with the flu would decide they aren't really necessary just because the five still on the job manage keep up the essential work for a week or so? FYI--I've worked for federal and state courts for most of my 30-plus year career, and while I can't speak about other parts of the government, I have encountered very little dead wood or loafers in the judiciary and its offices.

By IndyCanary on 2013 10 11, 4:24 pm CDT

@5 Typically in this situation, work and expenses that are necessary but not urgent get deferred, but you are digging a hole that will escalate costs when deadlines are approached.

By William Able on 2013 10 11, 4:48 pm CDT

#3 - I am also VERY curious to know what functions are being cut and why these shouldn't always be cut, as of course "spending rates and fund balances" should ALWAYS "be monitored closely." However, to just assume that the current cuts are for useless or unnecessary functions is also absurd when we don't know at all here what they're referring to.

#5 - I agree with the first paragraph. However, in your example, you don't differentiate between what MUST absolutely be done NOW, and what absolutely SHOULD be done but does not fall in to the MUST NOW category and is therefore currently not getting done. Just like #3, unless we've clearly delineated what falls into these categories and what falls into neither, it's a fallacy to try to claim that what's being done in an emergency situation is all that needs to be done in regular situations.

Unrelatedly, I entirely disagree about the post office, which although of course it needs to be run as efficiently as possible and can surely have sweeping changes made, is NOT supposed to be a self-sustaining agency, and has never and should never be considered as something that is supposed to be a self-sustaining agency. Rather, a central mail system is crucial to a well functioning democracy, and absolutely should be supported and assisted by the federal government, and NOT considered to be "failing" in that it needs this assistance, as is absolutely necessary to keep a "free," as in state-sponsored and regulated, mail system. Again, this does not change the necessity to run it as efficiently as possible, but the postal system is one area in which despite the numerous companies and methods of mail at this time, must always be available to the public, and which is crucial to support as a part of our society, commerce, business, and free enterprise.

By Halli on 2013 10 11, 5:06 pm CDT

6, that's what us in the private sector do day and night, weekends, and holidays. Why can't the public sector at least run at 80%?

By associate on 2013 10 13, 10:46 pm CDT

Good comments to mine, all, and matbe I should have clarified to say that this clerk's office has been "short handed" for several months, not just since the shut-down. And it is generally a well-run operation with hard workers. And I know that if it is down to 5, and one gets sick or worse, leaves, they then have no reserves. That's why I say the best number is between 5 and 13.

As for USPO I agree we need a mail system, like a rail system, sustained by tax dollars. My issue with USPO is that it is paralyzed by sloth, which is entrenched by the union (hello, Detroit!). There are hard working dedicated people there and there are slugs. You ask the hard working ones and they will tell you about the slugs. There is one PO here to which people want to be transferred because "once you're there, you don't have to do anything." I've seen a window clerk stop in mid-sentence and walk away when his 12:00 lunch hour started.

By Hadley V. Baxendale on 2013 10 14, 2:33 pm CDT

@9--Clarification please: What do folks in the private sector do all the time and 80% of what?

By IndyCanary on 2013 10 15, 4:58 pm CDT

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