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Utah's federal court prepares to stay open even if money runs out

Published October 10, 2013 3:13 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utah's federal court is taking steps to continue operating even after contingency funds run out next week.

Chief Judge Ted Stewart issued an order Wednesday declaring court staff — including clerks, the probation office and court reporters — essential to the "exercise of judicial powers" mandated by the Constitution.

The order requires approximately 100 court employees to report to work even if Congress fails to pass a continuing funding resolution or authorize an emergency appropriation.

The order says travel should be avoided unless pre-approved by Stewart and, "where feasible," training activities are suspended. It also asks that security services be continued.

Utah's U.S. District Court — like others across the nation — has remained opened since the shutdown began Oct. 1 by using unspent appropriations and special fee funds, and by reducing some operations. That money, however, will run out by Oct. 17, though it's possible that with reduced spending and careful management of fund balances the Judiciary will be able to squeeze out an additional day, according to a press release from the United States Courts.

Most federal court-related agencies, such as the Federal Defender's Office, had already implemented furloughs and reduced hours because of sequestration. This summer, Utah's federal court limited its Friday operations to criminal case hearings only.

As the shutdown began, government prosecutors requested stays in many civil cases, such as the battle between Utah counties and environmental groups over road designations. Requests for stays have met with mixed results across the country, according to a Third Branch News release from United States Courts.

In U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, a judge denied a Department of Justice request for a stay in an airline merger case; a different judge in the same district granted a stay in a patent software case that pits Microsoft Corporation against the Department of Homeland Security.


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