January 1, 2013

Chief Justice Roberts informs Congress that the federal judiciary is scraping by on a mere $7 billion a year.

$7 billion! Why, if that were one person's entire fortune, he'd only be #50 on the Forbes list of richest Americans. He'd only just butt ahead of Charles Butt.

The Chief stressed the bargain we the people are getting:
“Yes,” he went on, “for each citizen’s tax dollar, only two-tenths of one penny goes toward funding the entire third branch of government!”

In the report, Chief Justice Roberts said the judiciary was doing what it could to cut costs in rent, salaries and computer services...

The federal courts went to great lengths last year in trying circumstances, notably after Hurricane Sandy. “As just one example,” he said, “the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York conducted emergency hearings in Lower Manhattan the day after the storm hit, working in a building without heat or hot water that was only sparsely lit by gas-fueled emergency generators.” Though Chief Justice Roberts did not say so, the Supreme Court also showed fortitude the day the storm hit, hearing arguments when the rest of official Washington was closed.
I could think of quite a few ways to economize on the federal courts — things Congress could do. The courts are forced to handle the cases that fall within their jurisdiction, but Congress could target litigation-generating laws for repeal.

ADDED: Another way to increase that "two-tenths of one penny" proportion would be to reduce spending on things that are not the judiciary.

53 comments:

john said...

“for each citizen’s tax dollar, only two-tenths of one penny goes toward funding the entire third branch of government!”

What a deal! By that logic every increase in gov. spending makes Roberts and his gang even less expensive by comparison.

I learned long ago never to trust a lawyer to handle money decisions.

Pogo said...

Just another federal gaping maw.

Feed me, Seymour!

john said...

Then there is also the oxymoronic phrase "each citizen's tax dollar".

Lem said...

The chief is comparing the economics of the courts to the economics of a body that racks up trillions in debt every year.

Good stewardship used to be a good thing... now its an injustice.

Michael Haz said...

The justices want more money. The Obama administration wants more decisions. This will end exactly you fear it will.

Jim said...

We need to put some lean six-sigma black belts on the judicial workflow. In the fifties we could go from murder-kidnapping to execution in just three months. We can do as we'll again if we put our will to it.

Pogo said...

Quid pro quo for Obamacare.

tim maguire said...

While I probably agree with Justice Roberts that the judiciary is underfunded, the size of the federal budget is irrelevant to the question. No surprise, this is hardly Roberts' most questionable bit of recent logic.

Besides, I agree with the prof. that there are other, more attractive alternatives.

Wayne Wren said...

The difference is that Charles Butts runs an absolutely superior grocery store.

Hammond X Gritzkofe said...

“Yes,” he went on, “for each citizen’s tax dollar, only two-tenths of one penny goes toward funding the entire third branch of government!”

Fair enough. What can be done to bring the remaining 99.8% of federal spending in line with this?

virgil xenophon said...

The problem is our litigious culture. In the 20, 30 40s and 50s when one said "don't make a Federal case out of it" (meaning don't make it a big deal) it was because cases of any kind that made it to the Federal Courts were few and far between relatively speaking and reserved for those cases of only the most serious import, i.e., really "big deals." But today? As a female judge from the 6th circuit said not too long ago on a panel on judicial administration on C-Span about the clogged federal courts: "The problem is there is not a side-walk zoning dispute in the smallest township in the land that cannot be gotten into the federal courts if only the lawyers involved are both energetic and creative enough."

Hammond X Gritzkofe said...

Then there is also the oxymoronic phrase "each citizen's tax dollar".

Very well said, John. Methinks you win the thread with that.

Lem said...

The courts endorsement of Obamacare was like a political contribution.

When everything is political... that makes the most sence.

Lem said...

Fair enough. What can be done to bring the remaining 99.8% of federal spending in line with this?

As we say around here... You dont get it.

The Chief is asking for his fairshare.

Holy cow... its spreading.

McTriumph said...

Just because the judicial system is authorized by the constitution doesn't mean it has a right to exist, we should have a "conversation".

jd said...

haha of course your solution is to prevent plaintiffs from having their day in court. i'm shocked!

Skipper said...

A litigious society is fueled by a "litigious" Congress. Everytime they enact another "right", a million disputes are created. Disputes mean litigation which mean lawyers and judicial resources.

tim maguire said...

jd, you do realize, don't you, that there are alternatives to federal court? Limiting the jurisdiction of the Federal Court does not in any way limit a litigant's access to the courts.

jd said...

tim maguire--do you realize her suggestion was to alter laws so that plaintiffs wouldn't have claims upon which they could sue? It's not a question of venue. She wants to change laws to prevent claims entirely.

Darleen said...

Related: CA is gutting its court system. e.g. Los Angeles is closing 56 courtrooms (civil suits won't see the inside of a court room for 5 years)

San Bernardino county has closed Chino Court, with Barstow, Needles & Big Bear coming soon. As of Feb, the courts will also reduce working hours by 1 hour (closing at 3p)

But hey, billions for high speed rail!

David said...

Stunning that $7 billion is just a blip, a couple of days waste in some useless program.

I wonder what it costs to fund Congress? There are many more judges than congress critters, but judges don't quite have the staffing, do they? Or the control of the budget?

If it's unconstitutional to fund prisons "inadequately," why is it not unconstitutional to underfund the courts?

cubanbob said...

Loser pay would reduce the need for civil litigation. Judges tossing baseless and frivolous lawsuits would also help.

edutcher said...

Lessee now, for 7 bil, we could have a bunch of judges who legislate from the bench with an eye toward getting invited to all the "right" parties in DC or another couple of Special Forces groups and a second Ranger regiment.

Which would be a better investment?

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Chip Ahoy said...

Exactly, دردشة ومنتديات عراقنا ,

If John Robert wants his شلة عراقنا maintained at a ratio of دردشة ع when the budget is already دردشة عراقي
let's maintain that ratio as we عراقنا the دردشة عبدالل to the دردشة.

It's like that old addage, دردشة, out the mouths of fer'ner babes.

Cedarford said...

edutcher said...
Lessee now, for 7 bil, we could have a bunch of judges who legislate from the bench with an eye toward getting invited to all the "right" parties in DC or another couple of Special Forces groups and a second Ranger regiment.

Which would be a better investment?

==================
The judges, considering the Heroes in Uniform just pissed away 2 trillion dollars in lost wars.
If we could get the Judiciary to work well and efficiently and also comprehend that we are so mired in legal delays and endless trials that it is crippling America economically....a few extra billion would be money well spent.

7 billion doesn't even cover the bribes we have to make to Pakistan and Karzai and his drug overlords to pretend to like and support The American Heroes in Uniform.

Rich said...

Cubanbob said “ Judges tossing baseless and frivolous lawsuits would also help.”

Yes the federal courts should have rules requiring that attorneys certify, on pain of sanctions, that any paper they file is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation; and that the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions are warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for establishing new law; and that the factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery. And that judges could throw out lawsuits when the plaintiff fails to allege facts that allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.

Rich said...

Links didn't work in my remark. Here they are:

http://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/frcp/rule_11

https://legalresearchpros.com/?p=33&option=com_wordpress&Itemid=100008

wyo sis said...

Rich
I'm aghast that you would even mention the possibility of lawyers bringing frivolous lawsuits.
Heartless.

cubanbob said...

Rich that is all well and fine in theory but in reality courts allow just about any bogus claim of fact presented in the papers.

Just as an example on Thursday I will be I federal court for a hearing on a rule 60 motion ( federal) regarding fraud and perjury in a civil action. It's only taken me four years and $1.2mm and counting in attorney fees and costs just to get to Thursday. Of course the other side filled for a continuance. Once upon a time champerty and barraty and maintenance were taken seriously by the courts. Today, not so much.

Rich said...

Cuban bob,

Sort of tough to say much about your own case you mention (though I wish you best of luck with it), but from a more macro perspective I am not sure what sort of remedy you would like to see if we already have rules against filing frivolous lawsuits and arguments (and those rules are not infrequently enforced contrary to popular belief). I surmise the real problem here is how people want "frivolous lawsuit" defined, which is often "a lawsuit I don't like." Or often what they really mean is "no lawsuits allowed." Tough standard to apply.

wyo sis said...

I say all branches of the government should be as frugal and respectful of the taxpayer's money as the Judicial branch is. In the spirit of fairness and equality let's cut all other branches until they conform to the Judicial.
Thank you justice Roberts for your fine example.

cubanbob said...

Rich rules mean nothing if the courts don't rigorously enforce them. And occasionally severely as an example to others. Now admittedly my case is extreme: fraud on the courts. Fraud on a government agency. Fraud against my business. False affidavits. Manufactured evidence. Attorney knowingly acting in cahoots with the other party. Enough so that the appellate court stayed the appeal and has ordered the federal trial judge to revisit these factual aspects of a closed case. It's not likely that I am the only unlucky bastard in the country to have suffered these abuses of the legal system.

The courts are in the business of disposing cases, preferably by way of settlement but disposing them all the same. Justice isn't the main intent.

bridgecross said...

In fairness to Roberts, there ARE some government agencies (not one of the three branches, just an agency), which could lose 7 billion in the couch cushions and nobody would notice.
I'm also assuming he's talking about the entire judiciary nationwide, not 7 billion just for the supreme court. Building facilities, security, staff, transportation. 7 billion doesn't sound like a lot to me.

Paul said...

So a Billion here and a Billion there and soon you have the national debt at SIXTEEN TRILLION.

No wonder our founding fathers wrote 'He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance'.

Shit, they are doing it again. Bunch of parasites.

edutcher said...

Cedarford said...

Lessee now, for 7 bil, we could have a bunch of judges who legislate from the bench with an eye toward getting invited to all the "right" parties in DC or another couple of Special Forces groups and a second Ranger regiment.

Which would be a better investment?



The judges, considering the Heroes in Uniform just pissed away 2 trillion dollars in lost wars.


Only in your mind. We won Iraq and A-stan was doing just fine until Commandante Zero decided to "fix" it.

Considering the lousy law the judges come up with that usually makes us less safe and less free, the Army is the better investment any day.

ken in sc said...

Cubanbob is right. Champerty was against common law for about 1000 years. That's when lawyers/advocates stir up a conflict that was not there before in order to serve as a champion of one side. Think about class action lawsuits. Now it is common practice.

DaveO said...

Another way to increase that "two-tenths of one penny" proportion would be to reduce spending on things that are not the judiciary.

Not quite. It was two-tenths of one penny of all tax revenues collected. So, actually, another way to increase that proportion would be to reduce taxes.

TexasJew said...

Let the idiot beg it from his beloved Obamacare
Oh, and get lost

caseym54 said...

Me, I'd tie it to the length on death penalty appeals in the 9th circuit, which seem to take decades. There are people who got the death penalty 30 years ago who are still litigating.

Dante said...

How can anyone know what the judiciary is worth? Perhaps it is possible to make it more efficient, but maybe the resources would be used for other "worthwhile" projects. Is there a maximum value to law? It seems it is one of those necessary functions that will consume whatever resources can be applied to it.

If lugnuts on cars were a rarity, like diamonds, they would be worth a lot too.

Lem said...

lol Chip.

Lem said...

pssst.

Are we hiding over here?

Ok, I'll keep it on the downlow.

Ralph L said...

Seven billion dollars is a crapload of government lawyers and clerks. Assuming an average compensation of $200k, that's 35,000 employees, not accounting for some expensive buildings and paper clips.

mariner said...

"for each citizen’s tax dollar, only two-tenths of one penny goes toward funding the entire third branch of government!”

And even at that we're not getting what we pay for.

When civics was actually learned in junior high school, the Judicial Branch existed to protect citizens from the government (and sometimes each other).

Now the judicial branch exists to help government screw the rest of us.

Rusty said...

KLet's give the whole thing a little more perspective.


* U.S. Tax revenue: $2,170,000,000,000
* Fed budget: $3,820,000,000,000
* New debt: $ 1,650,000,000,000
* National debt: $14,271,000,000,000
* Recent budget cuts: $ 38,500,000,000
Let's now remove 8 zeros and pretend it's a household budget:

* Annual family income: $21,700
* Money the family spent: $38,200
* New debt on the credit card: $16,500
* Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710
* Total budget cuts so far: $38.50

Alex Ignatiev said...

We're closing federal courts in Mississippi. No plaintiff enters therein willingly.

Dante said...

rusty,

The federal government will never go bankrupt. . .It can always print money.

Rusty said...

Dante said...
rusty,

The federal government will never go bankrupt. . .It can always print money.


Well. Technically yes. It can print money until printing reaches Zimbabwe proportions. Then the currency is treated like a joke,....or toilet paper. Ours, being a reserve currency, won't take as much thinning as the Zimbabwe, whatever they use for money.
In the not too distant future there will be an accounting whether we want it or not.

This may or may not be related, but some wag on another website suggested that the huge spike in firearm and ammunition sales doesn't look like people preparing for a catastrophe as much as it looks like people preparing for a war. I certainly hope that isn't it.

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Thorley Winston said...

I'm also assuming he's talking about the entire judiciary nationwide, not 7 billion just for the supreme court. Building facilities, security, staff, transportation. 7 billion doesn't sound like a lot to me.

I suspect that many of the costs for the judiciary may not be included in the seven billion dollar figure Chief Justice Roberts is quoting but instead come out of the budgets of other federal departments and agencies. In activities based cost accounting, you’d impute those expenses to the judiciary to get a more accurate picture of how much things costs based on what drives those costs. Oftentimes when talking about the costs of a federal department or program, its proponents like to focus only on how much the budget is for that department or program.


gypsy rose said...

Just a word or two from a federal court clerk here. We are at will employees. At my courthouse, we went through a round of layoffs last year, in addition to the imposition of four furlough days. Our pay has been frozen for going on three years. And contrary to broad brush assumptions, we are NOT paid more than the private sector. I know many paralegals who make almost double what I do.
The reason I stay with the judiciary is simple. I love what I do. It's solemn and awe-inspiring and every day is a challenge and an opportunity to facilitate participation in our legal system. I just wish the other branches of government would work as diligently as the judiciary to trim costs. And yes. The seven billion figure is the cost of the entire judicial branch, nationwide. Quite a bargain.

Peter said...

Y'all pardon me for bein' a pore dumb redneck but I don't see why we're paying for a single Federal judge. These clowns can't even figure out the plain English of the Constitution. The powers and duties of the Federal Government are clear and defined yet over half of government efford is clearly unconstitutional and many of the duties ignored.