116th Congress Funding Highlights
Justices Testify. Justices Alito and Kagan testified at a hearing on March 7, 2019, before the House Appropriations Financial Services Subcommittee regarding the FY 2020 budget request for the Supreme Court, which is a separate line item in the Judiciary's budget. They requested $87.7 million in discretionary spending for the Supreme Court, about $6.7 million over the FY 2019 appropriation. Justice Alito's written statement is available here. In a break with tradition, no other testimony was solicited from the Judiciary.
House and Senate Appropriations for the Judiciary. On June 26, 2019, the House passed its Financial Services appropriations bill, which included $7.9 billion in discretionary funding for the Judiciary. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government approved its FY 2020 spending bill on September 27, and it included $7.418 billion in discretionary funding for the Judiciary.
Final FY 2020 Spending Bills Enacted. With spending limits set just before the August 2019 recess, Congress reverted to its usual pattern of passing a series of short-term continuing resolutions to avoid a government shutdown on September 30, 2019, which marks the end of the government's 2019 fiscal year. Following days of intense negotiations, a FY 2020 spending deal comprised of two minibus bills (HR 1158, HR 1865) were signed into law by President Donald Trump on December 20, 2019, just hours before the final stopgap funding measure expired.
The Judiciary received $7.487 billion in discretionary funding, just slightly higher than the amount approved by the Senate Appropriations Financial Services subcommittee in September. This represented a $234 million increase over the FY 2019 enacted level and provided sufficient funding for the federal courts to conduct its business.
The Judiciary's FY 2021 discretionary budget request of almost $7.8 billion was approximately a 4.4 percent increase over the Judiciary's FY 2020 appropriation of $7.49 billion. The FY 2021 request is accessible here.
Judiciary Representatives Testify Before Congress. On February 26, 2020, James Duff, Director, Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and The Honorable John W. Lungstrum, Chair, Judicial Conference Committee on the Budget, presented the Judiciary’s FY 2021 budget request to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government. Their statements are accessible here: Duff Opening Statement; Lungstrum Opening Statement
The Judiciary’s budget request for enhanced court security recognized the need for enhanced security. “For the Court Security account, the Judiciary requests $664.0 million, an increase of $24.8 million (3.9 percent) over the enacted FY 2020 level. The request includes additional funding for physical access control systems; security infrastructure and additional CSOs for new courthouses; the phased implementation of a cyclical replacement program for video management systems and screening equipment; and additional contract costs to maintain the facility access.” It also requested additional funds for the General Services Administration’s Capital Security Program, which provides funding to address security deficiencies in existing courthouse buildings.
House Appropriations Committee Action. On July 20, 2020, the House Appropriations Committee approved the recommendation of its Financial Services and General Government subcommittee that the Judiciary receive $7,773,341,000 in discretionary funding for FY 2020. The accompanying report explains the proposed appropriation in detail and may be accessed here.
Judiciary Asks for Supplemental Funds to Deal with the Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis. Like other institutions throughout the country, the operations of the federal courts have been severely disrupted by the pandemic. Courthouses closed their doors for months (and are doing so again, as the virus surges this winter) and judges and court personnel have had to develop new procedures and conduct essential business virtually. In late April 2020, the Judiciary requested emergency supplemental appropriations to help pay for personal protective equipment, enhanced cleaning of court facilities, health screenings at courthouse entrances, expansion of IT infrastructure and videoconferencing equipment, and increased costs associated with changes to probation and pretrial services supervision caused by COVID-19. The Judiciary also proposed converting longstanding temporary Article III and bankruptcy judgeships to permanent status and authorizing additional Article III judgeships to provide the courts with the resources they need to continue operating effectively during and after this pandemic – requests that the ABA strongly supports. The judiciary’s request may be accessed here.
The ABA supported the Judiciary’s request, and its letter to congressional leaders may be accessed here.
While the Judiciary did not receive additional funds following this request, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) (P.L. 116–136), enacted on March 31, 2020, included $7,500,000 for the Judiciary to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally.
Judiciary Seeks Additional Funding and Other Measures to Enhance Judicial Security. Citing the fatal attack at the home of a federal judge in New Jersey during the summer and increasing threats against federal judges and court personnel, the Judiciary wrote numerous letters to congressional leaders in September and October 2020 asking for enactment of a package of safety measures, including substantive changes to the law and additional funding, that would improve security at judges’ homes and at federal courthouses. Letters to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees requested funding totaling $524 million for the U.S. Marshals Service to install modern home intrusion detection systems in judges’ homes and to hire 1,000 additional deputy U.S. marshals; and for the Federal Protective Service to upgrade exterior security cameras at 650 court facilities nationwide. The U.S. Marshals Service is part of the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies appropriations, and the Federal Protective Service is part of the Homeland Security appropriations.
The ABA supported the judiciary’s funding request. Letters of support to House and Senate leadership may be accessed here:
Read the Senate letter here.
Read the House Leadership letter here.
FY 2021 Omnibus Bill Signed into Law. After a series of continuing resolutions, and once again, within hours of a government shut-down, on December 27, 2020, the President signed into law an omnibus bill that was tied to a COVID-19 stimulus package. The Judiciary received $7.72 billion in discretionary funding, $233.3 million above the FY 2020 enacted level. It includes the following:
• Defender Services – $1.32 billion, an increase of $81.7 million above the FY 2020 level and equal to the budget request.
• Court Security – $664 million, an increase of $24.8 million above the FY 2020 level and equal to the budget request.