Policy: Law

Supreme Court uses rainy day fund to stay open during government shutdown

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Beltway Confidential,Joel Gehrke,Judicial Branch,Supreme Court,Government Shutdown,Law

Supreme Court justices have kicked off an important judicial term despite the government shutdown by drawing on a little-known judicial rainy day fund that runs out next week.

"We're drawing from funds that we wouldn't normally draw from, a fund that is administered by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts," Supreme Court public information officer Kathy Arberg told the Washington Examiner.

That money, comprised of the various fees that courts collect and of "no-year" money — funds appropriated by Congress without requiring they be spent in a particular fiscal year — has allowed the Supreme Court to avoid furloughs and hear oral arguments despite the lack of new appropriations by Congress.

The fund, which provides for the whole federal judiciary, will be empty on Oct. 15.

"On October 16, the judiciary will be just like others, in that it will face the Anti-Deficiency Act, which means that only essential work will be done by employees deemed essential, and each court will go through the process of making the determination for itself as to what it needs to do, what it defines as essential work," said David Sellers, a spokesman at the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

"There's some guidance that is provided in that, that is the act of judging, the work of judges, will continue," Sellers said. "That's considered essential — it's essential under the Constitution, and so anything that judges deem necessary to support judging will continue."

Arberg wouldn't say if the Supreme Court's operations might be delayed or suspended due to the shutdown. "As I said, we have a notice now [on] how we'll be functioning through the end of this week, and we've had oral arguments, and have conducted business as usual and there have been no furloughs, and we will have an update — if necessary to update, if the lapse continues — by the end of this week. So, I can't really speculate beyond what we said."


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