Conn. federal courts bracing for shutdown’s impact
Washington – It’s likely the nation’s federal courts will run out of money on Friday, making them one of the latest victims of the federal government’s partial shutdown, curtailing services and stopping paychecks for about 33,000 court employees.
The Supreme Court, federal appeals courts, district courts and bankruptcy courts around the country will have to decide on a court-by-court basis how they will adapt to an end of funding and it’s not clear yet what Connecticut’s federal courts will do.
One thing is known. Dozens of court employees will either work without pay or be sent home, adding to the number of federal employees in the state hurt by the shutdown.
Robin Tabora, clerk for the U.S. District Court, District of Connecticut, said on Tuesday that the chief judge and the court’s board of judges were in the process of finalizing a draft plan that would determine which court functions and employees “would be deemed essential.”
“We’re looking at every position, we’re looking at every function,” she said.
Although congressional appropriation for the court ended on the day the Justice Department was shut down, Dec. 22, federal courts have been able to continue to pay their employees with court fee balances and other funds that are not dependent on a new congressional appropriation.
The Administrative Office for the U.S. Courts says it’s likely all money will run out on Jan. 25.
After Friday, it’s likely the only employees in federal courthouses who won’t be affected by the shutdown are district and appellate court judges, federal appointees that under the U.S. Constitution will continue to get paid.
Federal courts in several states have already initiated their shutdown plans, some curtailing or postponing civil suits and advising jurors they won’t get their fees until the government reopens.
Decisions of Connecticut’s federal district court, located in Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport, are filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Southern District of New York.
Catherine O’Hagan-Wolfe, the clerk of that New York courthouse, said all of its work will continue and all employees of the court will be required to show up for work, but none will be paid.
The bitter fight between congressional Democrats and President Trump over funding for the president’s border wall led to a lapse in appropriations for the Justice Department, eight other major federal agencies, and several independent agencies, including NASA. That prompted the partial shutdown.
There was an agreement in the Senate on Tuesday to finally vote on legislation that would end the shutdown, which is now entering its second month.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer agreed to schedule votes on Thursday afternoon aimed at reopening the government. Each would require 60 votes to advance.
The first vote would be on Trump’s proposal to reopen the government, provide $5.7 billion in funding for his border wall, and extend legal protections to some immigrants for three years. Democrats reject the border wall funding and say the immigration provisions would make it more difficult for certain immigrants to apply for asylum and provide little new protections for young immigrants known as Dreamers.
If the first bill fails, there would be a second vote on a stopgap bill that would reopen the shuttered agencies through Feb. 8, but contains no money for Trump’s wall. Republicans are expected to oppose that bill, and Trump is unlikely to sign it.
Don Stewart, a spokesman for McConnell, said the deal simply allows both sides to offer alternatives, but there is no change in Trump’s stated opposition to a short-term reopening of the government as proposed by Democrats.
Meanwhile, at least 1,500 federal workers in Connecticut, including 400 working for the Coast Guard and the rest for a number of other federal agencies, including the Department of Transportation, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as the Justice Department, are slated to miss another paycheck at the end of the month.