How foolish is managing the federal budget through the across-the-board “sequestration” process? The federal judicial system provides a good illustration of the chaotic lunacy that prevails when the President and Members of Congress fail to do their jobs and enact thoughtful, considered budgets.
From a budgeting standpoint, the judiciary is unique. Unlike other agencies and entities, it doesn’t operate grant programs or distribute benefit checks or buy advertising to discourage drunk driving or promulgate regulations. Instead, it exists solely to resolve disputes and try those accused of federal crimes. Its budget is spent largely on people — on judges and their law clerks, bailiffs and court reporters, docket clerks and security personnel — who make the system function smoothly.
Sequestration will require $350 million in cuts to the federal judicial system. Because federal judges are appointed for life and will be paid regardless of how fiscally irresponsible the President and Congress may be, the cuts that sequestration brings will fall disproportionately on the other people who are part of the process. As a result, court security operations will be impaired, federal oversight of those free on bond prior to trial and those paroled from federal prisons will be reduced, and jury trials and bankruptcy proceedings will be delayed due to lack of funds — among other consequences.
A capable court system is one of the bedrock requirements of a free, well-ordered society. The role of federal courts has become increasingly important as new regulations are produced and challenged, as new federal crimes are created, and as courts are increasingly viewed as the ultimate arbiter of all manner of disputes. Why, then, should federal courts be subject to the same across-the-board budgeting treatment as federal agencies and programs whose purpose is much less fundamental to the proper functioning of government and society?
The President and Congress need to start doing their jobs.