WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- The U.S. Judicial Conference, in a letter late last week, appealed to President Barack Obama for the funding it says is necessary in fiscal year 2014 to perform its essential constitutional functions.

Without it, the nation's federal courts face additional reductions in staff and services that will severely affect individuals and businesses seeking to resolve disputes, the Judicial Conference argues.

"Several years of flat funding, followed by the sequestration cuts that took effect March 1, 2013, have had a devastating impact on court operations nationwide," Judge John D. Bates, who serves as the conference's secretary, wrote in a letter dated Sept. 10.

"It is essential that someone speak for the Judiciary, and I respectfully ask that the Administration help make the case for an increase in funding above the FY 2013 post-sequestration level for the Judiciary."

Sequestration refers to a set of automatic federal spending cuts put into law by the Budget Control Act, signed by Obama in August 2011. The legislation raised the debt ceiling and was intended to put pressure on Congress to come up with a longer term plan for deficit reduction.

The $1.2 trillion in budget cuts, which were triggered March 1, will be spread over nine years and are equally divided between domestic and defense-related spending. The cuts are set to end in 2021.

The Senate Appropriations Committee recently approved an appropriations bill that will provide the judiciary with a $496 million increase in funding for fiscal year 2014.

The House Appropriations Committee approved a bill that will provide a $363 million increase in funding, also for fiscal year 2014.

The fiscal year begins Oct. 1. That's also the deadline for Congress to resolve a budget impasse or risk a government shutdown.

"Over the years, with the support of Congress and the White House, the Judiciary has been able to forge and maintain one of the most respected justice systems in the world," Bates wrote in the three-page letter.

"We are greatly concerned, however, that our constitutional duties, public safety and the quality of our nation's justice system will be profoundly compromised if sufficient funding is not provided to the Judiciary in FY 2014.

"I hope that you and the Congress will recognize the uncontrollable nature of our workload and provide the resources necessary for the Judiciary to perform its essential constitutional functions."

The Judicial Conference, formerly known as the Conference of Senior Circuit Judges, was created by Congress in 1922 with the principal objective of framing policy guidelines for administration of judicial courts in the United States.

The conference is headed by the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and consists of the chief judge of each court of appeals, a district court judge from each regional judicial circuit and the chief judge of the U.S. Court of International Trade.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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