Government Shutdown for Dummies: A Legal Perspective

What will happen to the U.S. federal courts during the Government shutdown? We’ve all been hearing about this for months now: If folks in Washington, D.C., can’t begin to work together, agree on things (especially budget) and generally play nice, the government will put itself into timeout and with no end in sight. While there have already been a great number of memes and gifs about what this means to the general population, the legal side of things might have different implications.

Man the helm!

Reuters recently reported that regardless of the government shut down, the U.S. federal courts would remain opened without interruption. You have to love the commitment of the nation’s legal system, right? Doesn’t matter what’s going on in Congress, who is being unfair or why no one can agree – the court system will rage on against the dying of light.

Well, sort of. In reality, the court system will have to make some seriously quick moves and make it a point to push back any cases that are not viewed as imperative. Some of the staff will be forced to work without pay until the termination of the shutdown, also known as the startup.

According to Reuters, the Anti-Deficiency Act protects the federal court system from the advent of a shutdown, though the longer the shutdown remains in effect, the more serious the issue will become for staff members in the judicial branch. Reuters explained that the courts will be able to get by on fees and other appropriations to keep operations running consistently, though this might not last for more than a couple of weeks.

Additionally, spokespeople explained that each court across the nation will experience different trials and tribulations, and it whether or not the system as a whole can run throughout the shutdown is yet to be seen.

All work, no pay?

The most serious threat seen by this shutdown, at least from many advocacy groups, is that federal employees will likely have to work without pay for the duration of the event. This means that military members, both active and veterans, will not be paid for their service, but will still be demanded to work. The same goes with anyone who is paid through the U.S. federal courts.

Obviously, these individuals will continue to accrue hours which will be compensated for when the shutdown ends.

If you’re in the legal sector, don’t expect to necessarily not hear anything from the federal courts.  My advice, be especially nice as be prepared as you’ll be working with people who will likely be working with no pay.