Although the looming “fiscal cliff“ is likely to be averted with a budget deal, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) is using the threat of sequestration to prod the federal court system to look harder at its spending.
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee last month that a proposed 8.2 percent cut, amounting to $555 million, would be “devastating.”
But Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote in his letter to Judge Thomas F. Hogan, director of the AO, that the courts could use some trimming.
“There is no question that the funding reductions would be difficult to absorb,” Grassley wrote. “However, I find it surprising that while the A.O. has been quick to outline the number of employees who would be either involuntarily separated or furloughed, other operational expenses are not mentioned.”
Grassley argued that has has concerns about the “significant amount of court funding spent on non-case related travel.” Earlier this year, he demanded to know why the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held a weeklong conference in Maui, Hawaii, that cost more than $1 million. In his letter, he also noted that the Federal Public Defender’s Office for the Eastern District of California spent about $25,000 for an employee spa weekend.
“If spending on items of this nature were curtailed,” Grassley wrote, “the savings could go a long way towards filling the funding shortfalls your office identified.”