What’s in the Federal Judiciary’s $9.1 Billion Budget Request?

The federal judiciary announced March 9 it’s seeking $9.1 billion in discretionary funding from Congress for fiscal year 2024, an increase of 8% over the fiscal 2023 appropriation, according to the judiciary’s fiscal 2024 budget request.

In the budget submission, Judge Amy St. Eve, chair of the Judicial Conference Budget Committee and 7th Circuit Court of Appeals judge, and Judge Roslynn Mauskopf, director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, wrote the funding is needed to maintain existing services, add some staffing to address caseload increases and bolster IT security.

Section 7 of the budget request, covering court security, asks for $783,465,000 for fiscal 2024, an increase of $33,302,000 from 2023. The judiciary noted the funding would pay for increases to a vulnerability management program started after the 2020 slaying of Judge Esther Salas’ son at their home in New Jersey.

According to the report, the court security funds requested are expected to cover things like “building access control, inspection of mail and packages, directed security patrols, perimeter security, other similar activities” and the management of a judiciary-wide program to facilitate security and emergency management services for the judiciary and U.S. Marshals Service in addition to “other federal agencies, state and local governments and the public.”

“The fiscal year (FY) 2024 Court Security appropriation request of $783,465,000 will provide an appropriate level of security at existing court facilities and provide security coverage at new and renovated facilities,” the report states.

Section 4 of the report, covering salaries and expenses, asks for $6,370,391,000 in discretionary funds for fiscal 2024. Under the “Vaccine Injury Compensation Trust Fund Appropriation Request,” the judiciary asks for $10,869,000 in discretionary funds for fiscal 2024. Total appropriations requested for salaries and expenses for fiscal 2024 is listed in the report at $6,916,516,000, an increase of $500,335,000 over the fiscal 2023 enacted appropriation, according to the request.

“Our constitutional system of government, with separation of powers and checks and balances, cannot function as intended if the judicial branch is not sufficiently resourced,” the judges wrote according to a press release. “We ask that Congress acknowledge the nature and importance of the work of the federal courts and the impact this work has on society and our democracy by providing the Third Branch with the necessary resources to carry out its constitutional responsibilities.”

The judiciary said in the announcement the $6.4 billion requested for the salaries and expenses of courts nationwide funds new investments like additional clerks and probation and pretrial services office staff due to higher workload estimates. The judiciary noted the funds would cover tenant alterations required to address life and safety issues. According to the announcement, the request also includes $156.7 million for the courts to support a portion of the judiciary’s multi-year cybersecurity and IT modernization plan.

The announcement said in fiscal 2021 and 2022, 97 Article III judges were confirmed by the Senate, and an additional 110 confirmations are anticipated over fiscal 2023 and 2024.

The judiciary also said it’s requesting $1.5 billion for defender services, an increase of $150.3 million, or 10.9%, over the fiscal 2023 enacted level. The announcement said it would fund a projected 204,100 Criminal Justice Act representations in fiscal 2024. The request also includes $9.9 million for the federal defenders’ fiscal 2024 costs to support the cybersecurity and IT modernization plan.

The judiciary said it’s also seeking $59.9 million for jurors’ fees, an increase of $1.7 million, or 2.9%, over the fiscal 2023 enacted level. The judiciary said the fiscal 2024 request is sufficient to fund all projected petit and grand juror requirements.

The judiciary also said funding for three partially funded courthouse projects is needed in the budget of the General Services Administration, which manages courthouse construction. The announcement says $315.6 million is needed in design and construction funding to address a judicial space emergency in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and $128.1 million and $76.3 million is needed to fully fund construction of new courthouses in Hartford, Connecticut, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, respectively. According to the announcement, the judiciary’s request notes a cost estimate is being developed for a new courthouse in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

According to the announcement, in their submission to Congress, St. Eve and Mauskopf said federal courts remain committed to prudent management of resources, noting the judiciary has employed a cost containment program since 2004. 

The judges added the judiciary also is “exploring lessons learned from operating during the pandemic with the goal of identifying additional efficiencies that could be implemented on a longer term or permanent basis,” according to the announcement.

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