Constitutional Law

US Budget Impasse Could Eliminate All Federal Civil Jury Trials, Judicial Conference Leader Says

Unless a federal budget impasse is resolved by Congress, all federal civil jury trials may have to be eliminated in 2013, a leading judge says.

“Civil jury trials would probably have to be suspended due to a lack of funding,” said Chief Judge David Sentelle of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Tuesday after a Judicial Conference meeting at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sentelle serves as chairman of the executive committee for the conference, which is the policy-making body of the federal courts. It is making contingency plans to deal with a possible need for $500 million in cost-cutting next year, as the judicial system’s share of $1.2 trillion in spending reductions and tax increases now set to take effect next year, absent a new budget agreement, the Associated Press reports.

Although juries would continue to hear criminal cases and federal judges could decide civil cases, the budget cut, if it takes effect, would also have a severe impact on payments for defense lawyers and probation services, Sentelle said.

Related coverage: “Court Closings Announced; Illinois US District Courts Weigh Weekly Shutdowns”

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