Chief Justice Calls Out Congress

Chief Justice John Roberts released the yearly state of the Judiciary report yesterday, and gave the American people yet another reason to keep Congress’ job approval ratings low:

Roberts says that “the judiciary’s central objective is, of course, to do justice according to law in every case. ” but that accomplishing such and objective requires focus on issues such as a court’s public resources, its workforce of judges and staff and the rules that provide litigants with reasonable and economical access to the judicial process.

He recognizes the economic down turn and describes the work that all levels of the Judiciary have done to reduce costs. But he says, “The judiciary’s needs are strikingly modest compared to the government as a whole—less than two-tenths of 1% of the federal budget for one of the three constitutional branches of government.”

“We will strive to reduce costs where possible,” Roberts writes, “but we ask in return that our coordinate branches of government continue to provide the financial resources that the courts must have to carry out their vital mission.”

Roberts says that the Supreme Court will reduce its fiscal year 2012 appropriations request to less than its fiscal year 2011 request. ” Not many other federal government entities can say that.” he writes.

Ouch. In this new era of government spending scrutiny, the Judicial branch is making the other two branches look like the fiscal jerks. But it’s the Senate that rightfully gets the brunt of Roberts’ scorn:

The Chief Justice also tackles the hot button issue of judicial nominations noting that sitting judges in some districts have been left with extraordinary caseloads because the political branches have failed to confirm judges.

“Each political party has found it easy to turn on a dime from decrying to defending the blocking of judicial nominations, depending on their changing political fortunes. This has created acute difficulties for some judicial districts.”

Roberts carves out special praise for retired judges who continue to carry substantial caseloads for no extra compensation. “We would be in dire straits without their service, and the country as a whole owes them a special debt of gratitude.”

This is utterly deplorable. The Senate is overburdening the wheels of justice in the name of political gamesmanship. Of course, Washington is overburdening the justice system with that little thing called the Drug War, but that’s another issue. The American people expect our justice system to work. We’re all very aware it isn’t perfect but even still, we expect the Judiciary to function within reason. The partisan bickering of the last few decades now has our justice system dependent upon the charity of retired judges. Meanwhile, the Judiciary gets by on less money. If only other branches of the federal government would try to do the same.

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