Justices Kennedy, Breyer Testify on Need for Court Funding

At a U.S. House appropriations subcommittee meeting Thursday, Supreme Court Justices Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer raised concerns about the potentially devastating impact of across-the-board budget cuts on federal courts.

The two justices declared that cuts to funding would slow down the “resolution of civil and criminal cases,” according to Thomson Reuters News & Insight.

“For a few months we can get by with furloughs or shorter hours,” Kennedy said, but “in the long term it will be inconsistent.” The Blog of Legal Times says he told legislators that judges cannot “control” their workload of cases in an effort to save money.

Under the budget cuts, known as “sequestration,” the federal courts will lose $350 million from their budget, the article says. Many employees are at risk of being laid off, or undergoing furloughs.

Breyer discussed the impact of the budget cuts on federal public defenders. Many people are at risk of not being fairly defended in court if they don’t have access to a qualified lawyer, he said.

The Blog of Legal Times says the hearing also focused on the issue of cameras in the Supreme Court. Both justices maintained their opposition to the proposal.

“We are a teaching institution,” said Kennedy. “We teach by not having television. We are judged by what we write.”

However, Kennedy did mention that it would be helpful to have camera access in lower federal courts because many newspapers, in the course of downsizing, are having to lay off their court reporters.

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