Federal courts will stay open if shutdown occurs
News & Record, Greensboro, N.C.
GREENSBORO, N.C. — If you’re being audited by the IRS or anticipating an inspection from OSHA, you now have a little breathing room.
But if you have a court date, you still need to show up — at least for the next two weeks.
As government agencies wind down and furlough their staffs due to Congress’ failure to pass a spending bill, the federal courts have enough funds to keep operating as normal until Oct. 15.
So while Guilford Courthouse National Military Park may be closed to visitors, the federal courthouses in Greensboro and Winston-Salem will remain open.
Exactly what happens if a government shutdown lasts past Oct. 15, though, is not yet known.
According to a memorandum issued last week by the director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, judges will keep working after Oct. 15, as they are considered “essential.” Trials, conferences and appellate arguments will continue, according to the memorandum.
The U.S. Bankruptcy Court also will continue hearing cases.
The Clerk of Courts will keep accepting new criminal and civil cases and continue collecting fees.
Federal public defenders will continue working, though should they experience a lack of work, they may be furloughed, according to the memorandum.
Those called for jury duty are still expected to show up. However, if the shutdown continues past the 15th, their payments might be delayed.
Judges are entitled to their salaries, per the Constitution. But if the shutdown continues past the 15th, they must obtain authorization from the Secretary of the Treasury to get paid, according to the memorandum.
Judges also will be allowed to retain law clerks, secretaries and other personnel “essential to the resolution of cases.”
Those employees, though, will not get paid until after the shutdown ends.
Each court will have to decide what other support personnel is necessary to retain after the 15th.
John S. Brubaker, Clerk of Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, centered in Greensboro, said a plan has not yet been formalized as to who will keep working locally in the event of a prolonged shutdown.
U.S. Attorneys, who prosecute federal crimes, have been directed to continue their criminal cases “without interruption.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also will continue their investigations.
However, according to a contingency plan filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, civil litigation will be “curtailed or postponed to the extent that this can be done without compromising to a significant degree the safety of human life or the protection of property.”