The federal courts are running out of money as the partial government shutdown continues and is raising concerns that the legal system will be significantly bogged down if the standoff is not resolved soon.
Judges around the country are trying to prepare for the idea that the federal judiciary will be unable to maintain current operations.
FOX 4’s Shaun Rabb sat down with Chief District Judge Barbara Lynn who oversees the Northern District of Texas. She spoke about concerns for the people impacted now by the shutdown and the entire process in the days ahead.
Rabb: So you've been on the federal bench through other shutdowns in your 19 years.
Lynn: I have but nothing like this. Criminal prosecutors are hard at work so their cases are proceeding. Our United States marshals haven't been paid in multiple weeks. They're continuing to do their duty as law enforcement officers, but they're not getting paid. Pretty soon, the judiciary will have similar salary checks. That is, we won’t be getting ours.
What is going to happen when that takes place?
We're going to do continue to do the job that we've been hired to do.
Have you been challenged in terms of reimbursing jurors, translators and folks of that nature?
Thank you for mentioning that because those are two very important issues as far as our jurors are concerned. Pretty soon here when we run out of money, we're going to have to pay them with IOUs from the federal government. Those IOUs are good. They will be paid. But that’s going to be a struggle for some people. As far as translators are concerned, that is of great concern to me because we have a number of criminal defendants who do not speak English. We need translators for them, but we will not be able to pay them when we run out of money. The public defenders are in the same position that we are. When we run out of money, they'll be out of money too. And I assume that they will continue just as the prosecutors have.
Have you been able to pay court appointees?
We haven't paid them since December. Another agency that you probably don’t think much about is the Bureau of Prisons Correctional Officers. None of them are being paid. Prisoners are getting three squares, and perhaps corrections officers families are not. So it creates a lot of stress throughout the system.
A lot of things we don’t think about.
You don’t think about it, Shaun. And it’s really very important. Corrections officers, they house people that we send to prison. None of them are being paid. I understand that prisoners are mocking and taunting them because they're not getting paid.
A lot of angst right now?
A lot of angst. People are very worried about what they are going to do. They’ve worked for the government a long time, and they want to continue to. They just don’t know what the future looks like. And without an end in sight, I’m very concerned about morale.
How does that impact morale?
It can’t be good for morale, as you know. I think people who work for the federal government are generally proud of the work that they do. They regard it as a public service. They regard the federal government as a stable employer. Things are going to change it that turns out not to be true.