As Federal Shutdown Continues, Judges Declaring All Employees Essential


Arowing number of federal chief judges have had enough. Frustrated by the budget stalemate in Congress, reports the National Law Journal many judges across the U.S. are declaring all employees essential in the face of a shutdown—a bold but necessary move, the judges said, to ensure basic court operations past the judiciary's funding date of October 17.

In more than two dozen courts, from busy urban districts in New York and Chicago to rural areas, judges went against guidance from the judiciary urging them not to enter broad orders deeming all staff essential. Judges said severe budget cuts over the past year left them no choice. “We’re drowning,” said Chief Judge Anne Conway of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, who declared all employees essential last week. “We’re treading water to keep our heads up. There’s just nobody left.” Under federal law, only employees deemed “essential” could keep working if Congress failed to pass a budget by October 1. Now two weeks in, chief judges said furloughs were off the table if the shutdown outlasted the judiciary’s funding.

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