Chief judge: Shutdown won't affect federal courts here

News-DemocratSeptember 30, 2013 

The federal courts that serve Southern Illinois will remain open in the face of government shutdown, at least for now.

U.S. District Chief Judge David Herndon said the court will continue to hear criminal and civil matters in East St. Louis and Benton.

The district court generates enough filing fees to remain open for 10 business days, Herndon said. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court Southern District of Illinois will also continue to hear cases.

"If a continuing resolution has not passed by Oct. 15, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court will reassess its situation and provide further guidance," according to a notice on the bankruptcy court's website.

Phillip J. Kavanaugh, chief public defender for the Southern District of Illinois, said he went through the 28-day government shutdown in 1995.

During that time, the courts were deemed an essential service and stayed open, though employees didn't receive pay. The employees received backpay when the government reopened. But buildings stayed open and the courts continued to operate.

This time, Kavanaugh said the General Services Administration, the agency that oversees support functions for the government, may not keep the buildings open or keep the phones and e-mail system running.

"Nobody knows if that is what is going to happen this time," Kavanaugh said.

Judges, court personnel and public defenders are funded by the judicial branch. The U.S. Attorney's Office, the agency in charge of criminal prosecutions, and the U.S. Marshal, the agency who is in charge of transporting prisoners, catching fugitives and providing courthouse security, are funded by the executive branch.

The courts serve the southernmost 38 counties in Illinois.

The U.S. Probation Office will continue to supervised offenders and provide pre-trial services to the court, Herndon said.

"Even after that, and I can't image that this shutdown would last more than 10 days, as a branch of government that provides essential services, we will stay open," Herndon said.

The judges will continue to hear criminal and civil cases, but some districts will have to do that with fewer people.

"We don't get a specific directive from Washington," Herndon said. "Each court has to make its own decision on staffing. With a court as small as ours and we are already cut to a lean staff, it would be hard to figure out which employees we can do without."

Belleville News-Democrat is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service