WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- Thirty-one federal court facilities will be downsized or closed as part of a nationwide program to reduce work space.

This week, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts announced the program will claim more than $1.7 million in incentives in releasing underused offices back to the U.S. General Services Administration, which helps manage U.S. federal properties.

During the program's first year, which ended Sept. 30, probation/pretrial offices accounted for four of the five largest cost-saving projects.

"It has been enormously successful," said Judge D. Brooks Smith, who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and chairs the Judicial Conference's Space and Facilities Committee.

"By offering courts a monetary incentive, we have given them an opportunity to focus on space reduction -- and space reduction is priority No. 1 for the Space and Facilities Committee."

The space reduction incentive program was approved by the U.S. Judicial Conference last September, as part of a long-term campaign by the judiciary to reduce space costs.

Last month, the conference expanded its space reduction goals and called on federal courts to reduce their overall space inventory target 3 percent by the end of fiscal year 2018.

According to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the initial participating projects and rent savings are expected to pay off all upfront costs, including the incentive payments and staff relocation expenses, in about two years.

After that, the annual rent savings for the judiciary and taxpayers will be permanent, according to the office.

The incentive payment can be applied to general operating expenses by the chief judge of the participating district court, bankruptcy court or court of appeals.

The allotment for space closures previously went back to the circuit.

The biggest single cost-saving project this year -- $305,000 -- will result from the closing of 7,669 square feet of probation office space in Boston.

The closure of a non-resident courthouse in Gadsden, Ala., will save $112,771 in annual rent for a district court space in the building, and $40,283 for a bankruptcy court in the same building.

Combined savings to taxpayers for closing the two adjoining courts is about $153,000, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts noted.

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

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